This is a red letter day for the red light industry. The Government’s announcement it will implement my recommendation to decriminalise sex work as legitimate employment will protect these workers and reduce the stigma and discrimination they have for so long endured.
After pursuing this fair, decent and fundamental reform for years, I was appointed in 2019 by the Government to lead an inquiry into laws governing sex work in Victoria, and to find the best way of decriminalising sex work in Victoria. These changes flow from that report.
• removing offences and criminal penalties for consensual sex work;
• repealing public health offences;
• repealing the Sex Work Act 1994 to instead regulate sex work through existing government agencies and business regulation;
• modernising planning, public health and anti-discrimination laws to support a decriminalised system.
This is a case of making the world better by removing a discriminatory law, not imposing a new law. It simply extends to all sex workers the occupational health and safety, welfare and taxation coverage of any other employee.
It is based on listening to sex workers, as well as legal and public policy experts. The collective view of all the sex worker groups was that decriminalising the industry was by far the best way to give them the best occupational health and safety outcomes.
These changes will allow them 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. It’s not a new view. In 1985 when regulation of the sex industry was first being investigated by Professor Marcia Neave, the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria was calling for a decriminalisation.
Victoria’s law is finally coming into coming into the modern era, in line with many other jurisdictions. NSW did this as long ago as 1995.
I welcome Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne’s statement: ‘’Every Victorian deserves to feel safe in their place of work – decriminalisation will ensure that sex work is safe work and go a long way towards breaking down the stigma sex workers continue to experience.’’
I am proud of the progress we have forged through mature collaboration between government and the community.
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