Submission on the Review into the Decriminalisation of Sex Work

Scarlet Alliance submission on the Review into the Decriminalisation of Sex Work on July 20, 2021.

“The Victorian sex industry is subject to a strict licensing and registration system that is governed by the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic), Sex Work Regulations 2016 (Vic) and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic). There are also a number of other federal and state-based laws and policies that the sex industry must abide by which cover:

  • occupational health and safety.
  • employment.
  • discrimination and harassment.

The Victorian licensing and registration system have created a two-tiered sex industry where a small percentage of the industry can meet the onerous compliance requirements while the majority of the industry is forced to operate outside of the legal framework. Licensing and registration impinge on sex workers’ safety, limits sex workers’ choices over our work environment and exacerbates power imbalances between sex workers and sex industry owners and operators. It is also costly to enforce, has been specifically named as a barrier to sex workers’ health, and violates our human rights. In addition, when police are positioned as monitors and enforcers of sex industry regulation, sex workers are deterred from accessing justice as using the services of the police can result in surveillance or being shut down, fined, and even deported.

Scarlet Alliance and Vixen Collective conducted five group consultations, a targeted telephone interview, and a large online survey with Victorian sex workers to investigate the impact of the existing licensing and registration model on sex workers ability to control their workplace situation and access their full human and labour rights. We consulted sex workers from across the sex industry, including street-based sex workers, brothel-based sex workers, massage parlour workers and independent sex workers. Sex workers who are migrants, are trans and gender diverse, and of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin participate in our consultation process. In addition, we consulted sex workers who were forced to operate outside of the licenced sex industry. This submission is informed by the responses provided by these sex workers as well as existing reliable research.

Scarlet Alliance welcomes the review into the decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria. The full decriminalisation of sex work ensures sex industry businesses are regulated in the same way as other businesses and subject to a range of existing laws and regulatory mechanisms, making for a highly regulated and transparent sex industry. Decriminalisation improves sex workers’ occupational choices by supporting autonomy, control, workplace health and safety (WHS), and industrial rights. Decriminalisation will mean sex workers can report crime to the police without fear of prosecution. A decriminalised system amplifies opportunities for outreach, magnifies capacities for peer education, supports sex worker self-determination, maximises compliance, increases transparency and minimises discrimination. There is an accumulating body of evidence globally and locally supporting the full decriminalisation of sex work as it ensures sex workers access to our human rights.”