The Victorian Government has recently announced that legislation to decriminalise sex work and provide standard workplace rights to sex workers will be introduced to state parliament by the end of 2021.
“Decriminalisation recognises that sex work is legitimate work and should be regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries in the state.” commented Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews.
This will be implemented through a range of reforms including removing offences and criminal penalties for consensual sex work and repealing public health offences that target sex workers.
It will also update and modernise planning, public health and anti-discrimination laws to support a decriminalised system.
“Replacing criminal sanctions with standard industry regulations has been proven elsewhere to improve workers’ access to workplace health and safety, healthcare and justice.” acknowledged Victorian Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt.
The Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic) will be abolished, and will be replaced by business regulatory procedures, similar to those that operate currently in New South Wales.
“Only sex work between consenting adults will be decriminalised. Criminal offences to protect children and workers from coercion and address other forms of non-consensual sex work will continue to be enforced by state and federal law enforcement agencies.” continued Mr Andrews.
Sex worker advocacy groups, such as Scarlet Alliance, are supportive of the decriminalised model, noting how it improves safety of workers, lowers rates of sexually transmitted infections and limits opportunities for organised crime.
These reforms will finally bring Victoria in line with other Australian jurisdictions, including NSW which successfully decriminalised sex work in 1995.
NSW has the most decriminalised system of all Australian jurisdictions and imposes the least controls on the sex work industry.
In NSW, the process of decriminalisation began in 1979, when criminal offences targeting street-based sex work were repealed.
This continued in 1995, where most aspects of sex work were decriminalised.
It is legal for a person who is over 18 to provide sexual services to a person who is over the age of consent in exchange for money, goods, or favours.
Furthermore, street-based sex work is legal provided that it does not occur in view of a school, church, hospital, or dwelling.
Sexual service premises, such as brothels, operate lawfully in NSW, provided that they comply with regulations.
Such premises are regulated by local councils like other businesses.
Despite this, offences remain in NSW, in order to protect the exploitation of sex workers, and children.
Click here for an outline on sexual assault and age of consent laws in Australia.
Sex Work Offences in NSW
NSW laws prescribe heavy penalties for those who exploit sex workers.
Part 3 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) contains a number of offences relating to sex work.
These include that it is an offence for an adult to ‘live wholly or in part on the earnings’ of the sex work of another person, pursuant to section 15.
This carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $1,100 or 12 months imprisonment.
Furthermore, it is an offence to, by coercive conduct or undue influence, cause or induce another person to engage in sex work, in accordance with section 15A.
This carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $5,500 and/or 12 months imprisonment.
Tougher penalties apply under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), including a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for procuring or enticing someone to perform sex work by means of any fraud, violence, threat, abuse of authority, or by the use of any drugs or alcohol, under section 91B. This offence is known as procuring for prostitution.
Child Prostitution Offences in NSW
Section 91D-91F of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) prescribe heavy criminal penalties for child prostitution offences in NSW.
It is an offence to by any means, cause or induce a child to participate in an act of child prostitution, or participate as a client in an act of child prostitution
This carries an applicable maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment where the child was under 14 years, and 10 years imprisonment in other cases.
A child is defined as a person who is under 18 years of age.