Decriminalization of sex work in Victoria could help prevent trafficking

Victoria may follow New South Wales and the Northern Territory in fully decriminalizing sex work as a new bill is due to be introduced to the Victorian parliament by the end of this year.

Decriminalization would have a significant impact on sex workers’ safety. By granting sex workers labor rights and protections, these workers will be better empowered to denounce instances of abuse and trafficking without fear of retaliation from authorities or risking the loss of their livelihoods.

MP Fiona Patten was commissioned in 2019 to conduct a review into sex work and handed the recommendation in to the government last month.

The Guardian reports:

Dylan O’Hara, a spokesperson from the Vixen Collective, said it was a “huge day for Victorian sex workers”.

“Under the current laws, we are forced to make choices about how we work, where we work, with whom we work, in ways that impact our access to workplace rights, to safety, and access to justice as well,” O’Hara said.

“Decriminalising and recognising sex work as work empowers sex workers to work in a way that best supports our health and safety.”

O’Hara said advocates would work with the Victorian government to ensure it introduces “decriminalisation laws that don’t leave any sex workers behind”.

If passed, the new legislation will remove any penalties for consensual sex work. This is fundamental in destigmatizing sex work and ensuring sex workers enjoy the same rights and protections from exploitation as other workers.

The Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt, said “We know that under the current system far too many sex workers are falling through the cracks and not being afforded the protections that they deserve.”

We welcome this progress from Victoria in taking steps towards the full decriminalization of sex work as a tool to help build resilience to trafficking and hope to see a robust law passed that ensures the most marginalized workers are protected.

To learn more about the links between trafficking for sexual exploitation and sex work, visit our dedicated research hub.

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