Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, opposes the announcement of a licensing body to regulate sex work in New South Wales.
Elena Jeffreys of Scarlet Alliance is concerned that ‘the ill-conceived push for a licensing model is politically motivated in the lead up to State elections, and occurring at the expense of sex worker human rights, health and safety.’
‘The Kirby Institute’s 2012 report on the Sex Industry in NSW to the NSW Ministry of Health clearly states that licensing is a threat to public health and recommends that licensing should not be regarded as a viable legislative response.’
Ms Jeffreys states ‘Comprehensive evidence from Queensland and Victoria demonstrates that licensing approaches fail.’
‘Licensing puts sex workers’ health and safety in danger. Licensing imposes stringent requirements that force large segments of the industry underground, presenting obstacles to sex worker access to health, safety, outreach, peer education and justice. Forcing sex work into industrial, poorly-lit, isolated locations is dangerous for sex workers. Licensing creates a two-tiered sex industry, results in extremely high levels of non-compliance (90% operating outside the system), is inherently expensive for tax payers, and requires a high level of police involvement, maximising corruption risk.’
‘A history of police corruption, harassment, entrapment practices, fear of prosecution, and use of condoms as evidence of a crime means that sex workers in a licensing model are less likely to seek police assistance in the event of a crime – especially if they are working outside the legal framework’, says Ms Jeffreys.
In comparison, Ms Jeffreys states, ‘New South Wales is world-renowned for enjoying 16 years of decriminalisation, the United Nations recognised best practice model for sex industry regulation. Sex workers in Australia, including migrant and CALD sex workers, have some of the lowest rates of STIs and HIV in the world.’
Decriminalisation is supported by the Commonwealth Government’s National Strategies on HIV and STIs, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and UNAIDS.
The LASH (Law and Sex worker Health) project, in their comparative study of 3 different regulatory models in Australia (criminalisation in Perth, licensing in Melbourne and decriminalisation in Sydney), found that under a decriminalised model, sex workers have better access to occupational health and safety and outreach services.
The experiences of New South Wales and New Zealand show that decriminalisation does not increase the size of the sex industry and compliance with regulation is high in NSW compared to other models of regulation.
Sex workers, including migrant and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) sex workers, are best supported by decriminalisation.
Ms Jeffreys states, ‘A better approach would be to introduce anti-discrimination protections for sex workers to better access justice, fund sex worker organisations to improve access to peer education and industrial rights, end criminalisation of street-based sex work, and appoint a sex industry liaison officer in state Government to assist local councils to abide by the NSW Sex Services Premises Planning Guidelines’, says Ms Jeffreys.