Australia decriminalises sex work in state of Victoria

Australia decriminalises sex work in state of Victoria
The Victoria state said the changes would take place over the next two years

The selling of sex between consenting adults is being decriminalised in the Victoria region of Australia, the state’s government has announced.

A range of changes will be made over the next two years in an attempt to increase safety and improve sex workers’ access to public health and justice services, a statement on Friday said.

The government said that sex work “should be regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries in the state.”

The current system for sex workers has not been updated for almost 30 years and is “no longer fit-for-purpose”, it added.

It said sex workers have reported unsafe conditions in both “licensed and unlicensed settings”, including violence, deterrents to reporting violence to the police, and the “lack of compliance with safe-sex measures”.

The government said that it will now “remove offences and criminal penalties for consensual sex work” to regulate the practice through existing government agencies and business regulation.

The statement stresses that “only sex work between consensual adults” will be decriminalised, and that criminal offences to protect children and people coerced into the practice will continue to be enforced.

Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said: “Every Victorian deserves to feel safe in their place of work.”

Victoria’s government said that it is following the move of New South Wales, which decriminalised sex work in 1995.

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, who has been pursuing reform for years and led a government inquiry into the industry in 2019, said: “These changes will allow [sex workers] to make a true profession out of their work – to pay tax, demand better conditions and be more open with their friends and family about what they do.”

Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Victorian Greens, said “this is big and welcome news” and that the reform is “overdue”.

Vixen Collective spokesperson Dylan O’Hara said: “Under the current laws, sex workers are forced to make choices based on the dangerous and unworkable requirements of the licensing system, rather than our health and safety.

“The full decriminalisation of all forms of sex work in Victoria is essential to recognising sex work as work and supporting sex workers, and is a crucial first step towards rectifying many years of harm and discrimination against Victorian sex workers.”

Scarlet Alliance CEO Jules Kim said that the evidence and support in favour of decriminalisation has been “unequivocal”.

She added: “It is great that the Victorian Government has heard the voices of sex workers in moving forward these much needed reforms.”

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