Decrim Now

Sex worker organisations worldwide call for the full decriminalisation of sex work, as does Vixen Collective here in Victoria. 

The full decriminalisation of sex work involves the removal of all criminal laws relating to sex work - this does not mean no regulation, but that sex work should be regulated like any other work.


Why decriminalise sex work?
The full decriminalisation of sex work is a first and necessary step in recognising sex work as work, progressing sex workers’ human rights and labour rights:

  • Full decriminalisation recognises sex work as work and sex workers as workers, helping to break down stigma against sex workers and provide avenues to seek redress to discrimination[1].
  • It has been shown that STI rates and safe sex outcomes are maximised under the full decriminalisation of sex work[2].
  • Under full decriminalisation there is less waste of police resources on enforcement of laws that harm sex workers[3], and sex workers are better able to access police assistance if in need because of improved relations with police[4].
  • Access to justice is improved for sex workers under full decriminalisation, including an increased ability to pursue criminal cases against those who may perpetrate violent or sexual offences against sex workers, but also civil protections (such as restraining orders)[5].
  • Full decriminalisation gives sex workers better occupational health and safety at work, and would (in Victoria) improve access to state apparatus such as WorkSafe Victoria and the Fair Work Ombudsman[6].
  • Barriers to sex workers accessing health services are reduced under full decriminalisation[7], without the requirement of sex workers to 'out' themselves - as is the case under current licensing regulations due to mandatory testing – which has been shown to lead to discriminatory treatment and exclusion from medical services[8].
  • Full decriminalisation removes the impediment to STI/HIV testing and treatment that licensing, remaining criminalisation of street-based sex work, and HIV criminalisation present for sex workers[9].
  • Greater industry transparency under full decriminalisation aids anti-trafficking efforts[10].
  • There is no evidence of organised crime within the sex industry under the full decriminalisation of sex work.[11]
  • It has been shown that sex work as regulated under full decriminalisation has little to no amenity impacts.[12]
  • Full decriminalisation has been shown not to result in an increase in the numbers of workers participating in the sex industry[13].


Which political parties support decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria?
The following political parties in Victoria currently support the full decriminalisation of sex work:

Victorian Greens[48]
Note - there is considerable protest over the Victorian Greens selection of anti sex worker candidate Kathleen Maltzahn, see here for more information

Reason Victoria[49]

Most recently, Victorian Labor (at the State Labor Conference, held on the 26-27th May 2018) voted on an amendment to their State Platform:

“Recommend to the law reform committee to consider decriminalisation of all forms of sex work in Victoria as per other systems recognised internationally by human rights organisations, and introduced in New Zealand and NSW”

This amendment was passed and now forms part of the State Labor Platform.

 

How can you support sex worker rights?
Vixen Collective has campaigned since our formation in 2005 for the full decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria – this includes:

  • Direct advocacy to government on matters relating to sex work, including on law and policy that affects sex workers in Australia
  • Public protest by sex workers and supporters calling for the full decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria
  • Lobbying for political parties to adopt policy that supports the rights of sex workers
  • Ongoing and active consultation with Victorian sex workers
  • Community education on sex work in Victoria and on sex worker rights
  • Raising awareness of sex worker rights in media
  • Work with allied organisations to support sex workers’ rights, health and safety
  • And more…

If you’d like to work with us directly on this then follow us on Twitter at @VixenCollective to see what we’re doing next and/or drop us a line via email at vixencollectivemelbourne@gmail.com

* Please bear in mind that Vixen Collective is an unfunded volunteer service (as Victoria does not have a funded peer service for sex workers) so matters not relating to direct peer support will be answered as time permits *

 

Organisations that support the full decriminalisation of sex work
Full decriminalisation of sex work is recognised as the worlds' best practice model for sex work regulation – by organisations that support sex workers rights, health and safety worldwide, including:

  • The United Nations[14]
  • The World Health Organisation[15]
  • Amnesty International[16]
  • Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)[17]
  • Human Rights Watch[18]
  • Global Commission on HIV and the Law[19]
  • Open Society Foundations[20]
  • Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)[21]

Other international organisations that support the full decriminalisation of sex work, include:

  • Action for Reach Out (AFRO), Hong Kong
  • Action Humanitaire pour la Santé et le Développement Communautaire (AHUSADEC), Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Adarsha, India
  • AIDS Myanmar Association (AMA)
  • All India Network of Sex Workers
  • Alliance of Women Advocating for Change (AWAC), Uganda
  • Amitiel Welfare Society, Pakistan
  • Ashodaya Samithi, India
  • Ashraya, India
  • Asia Catalyst
  • Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)
  • Asociacion HTS Goover (Hombres Traba jadores Sexuales) de Ecuador
  • Avenir Jeune de l'Ouest, Cameroon
  • Berufsverband für erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen (BesD), Germany
  • Best Practices Policy Project, USA
  • Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network), Canada
  • Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform
  • China Sex Worker Organisation Network (CSWON)
  • Civil Society on Health and Rights of Vulnerable Girls and Women in Nigeria (CISHRWIN)
  • Coalition of Sexual Trabajadores of Quito, Ecuador
  • Colectivo Hetaira, Spain
  • Comitato per i Diritti Civili delle Prostitute (CDCP), Italy
  • Coyote Rhode Island, USA
  • Demetra Association of HIV affected women and their families, Lithuania
  • Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), India
  • Empower Foundation, Thailand
  • FIRST Decriminalize Sex Work, Canada
  • Giant Girls, South Korea
  • Healthy Options Project Skopje, Macedonia
  • HIPS, USA
  • HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Centre (HARC), Bangladesh
  • HPLGBT, Ukraine
  • International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE)
  • l'Association pour le Soutin des Personnes Vulnérables (ASOUPEVU), Burundi
  • Lady Mermaid's Bureau, Uganda
  • Le Collectif des Femmes de Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, France
  • LEFÖ – Information, Education and Support for Migrant Women, Austria
  • Legalife - Ukraine (UCO)
  • Mahila Jagrut Sevabhavi Sanstha (MJSS), India
  • maiz - autonomous centre for and by migrant women, Austria
  • Movimiento de Trabajadoras Sexuales del Perú
  • New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance, USA
  • New Zealand Prostitutes Collective
  • Nigeria Sex Workers Association (NSWA)
  • Operation Snatch, Canada
  • OPSI (Organisasi Perubahan Sosial Indonesia), Indonesia
  • PACE Society, Canada
  • Peers Victoria Resources Society, Canada
  • Pow Wow, Zimbabwe
  • Project PiA – information and advice for sexworkers, Austria
  • Red Edition - Migrant Sex Workers Group, Austria
  • Red Initiatives, Caribbean
  • Red Umbrella Athens, Greece
  • Renewed Initiative against Diseases and Poverty (RENAGAIDS), Nigeria
  • Rural Movement Initiative (RUMI), Uganda
  • SAMESH (SA Mobilisation + Empowerment for Sexual Health)
  • SCOT-PEP (Scottish Prostitutes Education Project)
  • SEED, Malaysia
  • Seeds of Affinity Inc.
  • Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC)
  • Sex Work Association of Jamaica
  • Sex Workers Alliance Ireland
  • Sex Workers Outreach Project Sacramento
  • Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network, Hungary
  • Shanghai CSW and MSM Center (SCMC)
  • SISONKE Botswana
  • Sisonke National Sex workers Movement, South Africa
  • Solidarite pour le Droit des Travailleuses du Sexe au Burundi
  • STAR-STAR Association for support of marginalized workers, Macedonia
  • Stella, l’amie de Maimie, Canada
  • Stepping Stone Association of Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada
  • STRASS (Syndicat du Travail Sexuel), France
  • SWARM (Sex Work Advocacy and Resistance Movement), UK
  • SWASH (Sex Work And Sexual Health), Japan
  • SWEAT (Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Task force), South Africa
  • Tais Plus, Kyrgyzstan
  • TAMPEP (European Network for the Promotion of Rights and Health among Migrant Sex Worker)
  • Triple-X Workers' Solidarity Association of British Columbia, Canada
  • UTSOPI (Union des Travailleu(r)ses du Sexe Organisé(e)s Pour l'Indépendance), Belgium
  • Women's Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), Uganda
  • Zi Teng, Sex workers concern group, Hong Kong
  • Zimbabwe Sex Workers Alliance (ZIMSWA)

National organisations in Australia supporting the full decriminalisation of sex work include:

  • Australia's National HIV Strategies[22]
  • ACON Health[23]
  • Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)[24]
  • Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League
  • Australian Research Centre in Sex Health & Society (ARCSHS)[25]
  • Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)
  • Bobby Goldsmith Foundation
  • Burnet Institute[26]
  • Centre for Social Research in Health, University of New South Wales
  • Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health (CERIPH), Curtin University
  • Doesn’t Do It For Free (Sex Worker Arts & Performance Collective)[27]
  • Harm Reduction Australia
  • Hepatitis Australia
  • La Trobe University
  • Multicultural Centre for Women's Health
  • National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA)
  • National LGBTI Health Alliance
  • Nothing About Us Without Us (NAUWU)[28]
  • Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association)[29]
  • Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney
  • The Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society, University of New South Wales
  • Touching Base[30]

State and Territory based organisations supporting the full decriminalisation of sex work in Australia include:

  • AIDS Action Council. ACT[31]
  • Community Access & Services SA
  • Harm Reduction Victoria[32]
  • Hepatitis SA
  • Living Positive Victoria[33]
  • Magenta (Sex Worker Support Project for Western Australia)[34]
  • Mosaic Services, Relationships Australia South Australia RASA
  • NSW Users and AIDS Association Inc. (NUAA)
  • Resourcing Health and Education in the Sex Industry (RhED), a program of Star Health Victoria[35]
  • Respect Inc. Queensland[36]
  • SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute)
  • Sex Work: Education, Advocacy & Rights WA (SWEAR-WA)
  • Sex Workers Outreach Program ACT (SWOP-ACT)[37]
  • Sex Workers Outreach Project NSW (SWOP-NSW)[38]
  • Sex Workers Outreach Project Northern Territory (SWOP-NT)[39]
  • SHine (Sexual Health Information Networking & Education) SA
  • South Australian Sex Industry Network (SIN)[40]
  • St Kilda Legal Service[41]
  • Sex Worker Action Group – Gaining Empowerment Rights and Recognition (Swaggerr)[42]
  • Victorian AIDS Council (VAC)[43]
  • Vixen Collective (Victoria's peer only sex worker organisation)[44]
  • Working Women's Centre SA Inc.

The full decriminalisation of sex worker is also supported by:

  • Sex workers' representative organisations worldwide[45]
  • Multiple medical studies[46]
  • Many other human rights and health organisations across the world[47]

 

REFERENCES
*If not referenced elsewhere, refer:
Joint letter of support for the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015, Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) and SIN (South Australia’s peer sex worker organisation), 2017.

[1] Although stigma towards sex workers has not ended with the decriminalisation of sex work in New Zealand, studies show that sex workers perceive this as an injustice and are more willing to access mechanisms to address discrimination:
“Participants in this study accepted that they operated outside the norms of society and acknowledged that they were therefore stigmatised by society.  But most participants did not internalise shame and were angry at the perceived injustice and contravention of their human rights to be able to choose and work within an industry without discrimination.”
‘Taking the Crime Out of Sex Work: New Zealand Sex Workers’ Fight for Decriminalisation’, Abel et al, 2010, pg.241.
The tribunal ruled it was unacceptable for an employer to use sexual language in a way that was offensive to the employee in any workplace.
"Context is everything. Even in a brothel, language with a sexual dimension can be used inappropriately in suggestive, oppressive, or abusive circumstances," the findings said.”
Sex Worker Gets $25,000 Over Harassment, Michelle Duff, Stuff.co.nz, 1st March 2014.

[2] ‘HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report 2010’, National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, ACT. 2007.

[3] “Police abuse clearly conveys discrimination in accessing the criminal justice system.  Fear of stigma and discrimination are powerful barriers to reporting of crimes to the police.  Sex workers who do seek justice can experience police inaction and resistance to taking reports of abuse.  Police often uphold a harmful and discriminatory notion that sex workers cannot be raped, further undermining sex worker protection under laws against sexual violence.  Even where sex worker is legal, police can be unwilling to protect sex workers.  Fear of being implicated in criminal activity can also impede sex workers’ comfort in reporting abuse to police.”
‘Human rights violations against sex workers: burden and effect on HIV’, Decker et al, The Lancet, 2014, pg.5.

[4] "The nature of sex workers’ contact and interaction with police determines whether they feel confident making complaint to police regarding crimes of violence”
Unjust and Counter Productive: The Failure of Governments to Protect Sex Workers From Discrimination, Scarlet Alliance and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Sydney, 1999, pg 14.

[5] “The most severe and systemic rights violations occur within the contexts of punitive laws (full or partial criminalisation) … The resulting climate of impunity emboldens police, health sector, and non-state groups to abuse sex worker rights, in turn, sex workers are vulnerable to exploitation, and inhibited from seeking redress for abuses… Decriminalisation enhances rights, as shown by decreased violations and impunity in areas where sex work has undergone decriminalisation, such as New Zealand.  Here, most sex workers credit decriminalisation with greater protection from violence and increased power to negotiate safer sex.  Access to police protection has increased, although instances of violence against sex workers persist, and many sex workers are still reluctant to report.”
‘Human rights violations against sex workers: burden and effect on HIV’, Decker et al, The Lancet, 2014, pg.7.

[6] In New Zealand, subsequent to decriminalisation of sex work the New Zealand Government passed the ‘Health and Safety in Employment Act’ (1992). 
“..sex workers are utilising easy to access employment mediation services, the Disputes Tribunal, as well as the Human Rights Commission, to resolve workplace conflicts that create stress and undermine their occupational safety and health.”
‘Report on Experience: Decriminalised Sex Work and Occupational Health and Safety in New Zealand’, NZPC, Sept 2015, pg.2.

[7] “The legal context appeared to affect the conduct of health promotion programs targeting the sex industry.  Brothel licensing and police-controlled illegal brothels can result in the unlicensed sector being isolated from peer-education and support … Long-term risk reduction and enduring health improvements are more likely to occur when there is ongoing peer-led education, supported by community-based organisation and advocacy.”
‘The Decriminalisation of Prostitution is Associated with Better Coverage of Health Promotion Programs for Sex Workers’, C Harcourt, J O'Connor, S Egger, C Fairly, H Wand, M Chen, L Marshall, J Kaldor, B Donovan, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010, 34:5 pg 482.

[8] The Sex Industry in NSW: A Report to the NSW Ministry of Health, 2012, pg.23.

[9] The UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work 2012 recognises that criminalisation poses substantial obstacles in accessing HIV prevention, treatment and support.

[10] It has been shown that decriminalising sex work does not cause an increase in trafficking, New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003 and continues to be ranked in Tier 1 by the United States State Department Trafficking in Persons Report.  United States Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report, (2010).

[11] As recognised by the Land and Environment Court in Martyn v Hornsby Council, cited in Nothing About Us Without Us, ‘North Sydney Council Prohibits Home Occupation (Sex Services) in All Zones under the New Draft LEP’, accessed at http://nothing-about-us-without-us.com/tag/urban-realists/ on 30 October 2014.

[12] ‘Effects of sex premises on neighbourhoods: Residents, local planning and the geographies of a controversial land use’, Prior and Crofts, New Zealand Geographer, v68, 2012, pg.130.

[13] “…the number of sex workers in New Zealand has not increased as a result of the passage of the PRA…” 
Report of the PLRC on the Operation of the PLA 2003, page.29.

[14] The United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Development Fund and UNAIDS support the decriminalisation of sex work and note that legal empowerment of sex worker communities underpins effective HIV Responses.

[15] "Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers."
Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations, World Health Organisation, July 2014, pg.91.

[16] Global movement votes to adopt policy to protect human rights of sex workers, Amnesty International, 11 August 2015.

[17] We know from them that the decriminalisation of sex work is the only way to ensure that sex workers are able to work in safety and be protected from violence and exploitation. … Often, sex workers and their clients are best positioned to detect and report cases of human trafficking or exploitative labour situations. This can only happen in a decriminalised environment, where neither party is afraid of prosecution..
‘Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women – Submission to Scotland Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work’

[18] ‘Human Rights Watch World Report 2014’, Human Rights Watch, 2014, pg.47.

[19] “Decriminalization is the first step towards better working conditions…”
Global Commission on HIV and the Law – Risks, Rights and Health, Global Commission on HIV and the Law, July 2012, pg.40.

[20] ‘Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society’, Open Society Foundations, October 2015.

[21] ‘Statement of Support for Amnesty International’, NSWP – Global Network of Sex Work Projects, July 2015.

[22] Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Sixth National HIV Strategy 2010-2013, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010 at 6.4.

[23] Joint letter of support for the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015, Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) and SIN (South Australia’s peer sex worker organisation), 2017.
The full decriminalisation of sex work as represented by the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015 is the best model of sex industry regulation for the rights, health and safety of all sex workers. These outcomes cannot be assured under any other model.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to vote in support of the Bill in the lower house.”

[24] We recognise full decriminalisation of sex work is the only acceptable model of regulation for sex workers’ human rights, labour rights, health and safety.”
Vixen Collective Media Release – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), Tuesday 15th September 2015.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Vixen Collective Media Release – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), Tuesday 15th September 2015.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Joint letter of support for the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015, Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) and SIN (South Australia’s peer sex worker organisation), 2017.
More information on AIDS Action Council can be found here - https://www.aidsaction.org.au/aids-action-council-services/swop.html

[32] Vixen Collective Media Release – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), Tuesday 15th September 2015.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] “In line with … Vixen Collective continues to call for the full decriminalisation of sex work – this is recognised as the world’s best practice model of sex work regulation.”
Vixen Collective Media Release – Sex offenders who target sex workers no longer able to be given reduced sentences for their crimes under updated Victorian Sentencing Manual, Wednesday 19th October 2016, (St Kilda Legal Service joins endorsing organisations).

[42] Vixen Collective Media Release – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), Tuesday 15th September 2015.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Sex worker organisations not just in Australia but across the world repeatedly call for the full decriminalisation of sex work.  When Amnesty International released a draft policy supporting the decriminalisation of sex work (subsequent to their release of a final policy), they were attacked and vilified online by anti sex work groups, following which, sex worker organisations issued statements of support for the Amnesty International policy – confirming full decriminalisation as the preferred model:

“Sex workers and their allies campaign for the full decriminalisation of sex work to:

  • Promote safe working conditions
  • Increase access to health services …
  • Increase sex workers’ access to justice
  • Reduce police abuse and violence
  • Help to tackle exploitation and coercion when it does occur”

In the case of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), just one of the many sex work organisations and networks supporting Amnesty International at the time, NSWP membership represents 237 sex worker-led organisations in 71 countries.

[46] For example: ‘The Decriminalisation of Prostitution is Associated with Better Coverage of Health Promotion Programs for Sex Workers’, C Harcourt, J O'Connor, S Egger, C Fairly, H Wand, M Chen, L Marshall, J Kaldor, B Donovan, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010, 34:5 pg 482.

[47] Human rights, health organisations and research supports the decriminalisation of sex work.  As examples:
1) In 2017 human rights and health organisations, alongside sex worker organisations, signed a letter supporting a proposed bill decriminalising sex work in South Australia.
‘Over 100 organisations support Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015’, Scarlet Alliance & SIN (South Australian Sex Industry Network), May 2017.
2) In 2015 1100 organisations and individuals signed a joint letter with ICRSE (International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe) to ask Amnesty International to endorse decriminalisation of sex work.
‘ICRSE, 1100 Organisations and Individuals Ask Amnesty International to Support Decriminalisation of Sex Work’, ICRSE (International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe), 31st July 2015.
3) LGBTIQ organisations and research on experiences of LGBT people support the decriminalisation of sex work.
a) ‘LGBT Rights Organisations Support Join Amnesty International in Call to Decriminalise Sex Work’, Lambda Legal, 20th August 2015.
b) ‘New Report on Transgender Experiences in Sex Work Recommends Decriminalisation’, National Centre for Transgender Equality, 7th December 2015.

[48] Victorian Greens – Policy/Women:
“Decriminalisation of consensual adult sex work”.

[49] Reason Victoria – Health Policy/Sex Work:
“REASON rejects the Nordic Model of sex work that criminalises clients and infantilizes workers. Evidence shows decriminalisation leads to reduced risk of trafficking, gender-based violence, HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Sex work laws should recognise legal sex between consenting adults and should uphold the human rights and health rights of people who engage in sex work.”