The Victorian government will take steps to decriminalize sex work and regulate the sex industry “through standard corporate industry laws” after a review that it heard the current system leaves many unprotected.
The review was conducted by Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten in 2020 and is currently before the state government. The government is expected to publish the report and present the proposed legislation by the end of the year.
The change would see Victoria join the Northern Territory and New South Wales as jurisdictions that have decriminalized sex work.
Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said decriminalization was the “best option” to make sex workers safer and reduce stigma and fear of criminal repercussions.
“Sex work is a legitimate form of work and should be regulated by standard business laws, like all other industries in the state,” Horne said. “The decriminalization of sex work in Victoria will ensure that it is safe work, a basic human right that everyone deserves. We are working to achieve this as a priority and will have more to say in due course. “
Victoria currently has a licensing system for sex work that is regulated by the police. It requires service providers operating a brothel or escort agency and sex workers operating independently to apply for a license and be registered through the department of consumer affairs. Sex workers working in a brothel do not have to register.
The laws also prohibit sex workers from operating from their homes, unless they have obtained an exemption, that is, those who do not want to rent a workspace often travel to the client.
Patten said the review heard from sex workers who had been assaulted by clients because they were unable to work from a safe place.
“We heard experiences where there were hidden cameras in the client’s home, where the client had other people in the home, where people experienced sexual violence because they couldn’t protect themselves because the law just didn’t allow them to do that,” he said. saying.
The current law also made some people reluctant to call the police if they had been sexually assaulted or blackmailed because they were operating outside the regulatory system.
Decriminalization would “shed more sunlight” on harmful conduct within the industry while better protecting sex workers to operate safely, Patten said.
“You provide avenues for sex workers who may feel exploited in some way to come forward without fear of prosecution.”
Dylan O’Hara, a spokesman for the Vixen Collective, said current laws had created a two-tier system where those who operated within the licensing system were protected and those who chose not to.
“The current laws are extremely burdensome, discriminatory, unworkable, so many workers are forced to work outside the laws,” O’Hara said. “Workers are forced to choose between submitting to things like permanent registration of details with the government, with the business licensing authority, which can never be taken away from them. You can never remove your information from that record. “
That permanent record can affect future job prospects, show up at police checkpoints and even interfere with custody cases, Scarlet Alliance CEO Jules Kim said.
“Those registries are incredibly problematic and don’t really provide any protection or support for sex workers, but what they do is mark them for life,” she said.
Kim said sex workers are currently forced to choose between protecting their privacy and maintaining the right to legal redress. Decriminalization would allow sex workers to access the ordinary legal protections offered to all workers, such as WorkSafe and WorkCover. It would also reduce stigma.
“It is still very widespread stigma and discrimination,” he said. “The decriminalization of sex work sends an important message that the government does not consider sex work a crime and does not consider sex workers criminal … in some way. In the current system, it kind of supports that discrimination within the government framework. “