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Title: A New Era for Sex Workers in Victoria


On this memorable day, I watched with great anticipation as the Victorian Government took a significant step towards providing sex workers overdue recognition and industry-appropriate working rights! It was Tuesday, 22 February 2022 when the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 (SWD Act 2022) was passed by the Victorian Parliament, becoming an official law.


Before I begin, let’s take a moment to celebrate the fact that one of the most significant triumphs of these reforms is the improved rights and respect granted to the sex work industry; these laws have paved the way for enhanced safety, well-being, and working-rights within the industry! sex workers now have access to vital healthcare services, the right to form unions, and improved mechanisms to report exploitation and abuse. These provisions mark a critical step forward in ensuring the dignity and protection of people in the sex work profession –


From the comfort of my home, with my laptop on hand, I excitedly watched as the historic legislation was passed and an overwhelming wave of emotion swept over me causing tears of joy to stream down my face. In this transformative moment I felt an immense sense of validation and recognition, a moment where my, and the voices of countless other industry peers and community advocates, had finally been heard; a significant milestone moment for the rights and dignity of sex workers, offering hope for a more inclusive and progressive society.


Noting the continuous work in terms of eliminating stigma, and the two-stage approach by the Government to achieve full decriminalization, the new laws passed on this historic day have undeniably propelled the industry forward. For too long, sex work has been stigmatized and marginalized, leaving those involved without legal recognition and protections. The reforms associated with the SWD Act 2022 is a turning point in Victoria, as sex workers are now acknowledged as legitimate workers engaged in lawful employment; this recognition not only affirms our rights but also validate our contribution in society; sex workers are not just sex workers, we are also listeners, speakers and companions.


The first stage, commenced on 10 May 2022, has already introduced several key changes, including but not limited to; decriminalisation of street-based sex work in most locations – removing the legal barriers that previously hindered the ability of sex workers to practice their profession safely; repeal of offences for working with a sexually transmitted infection and not using safe sex practices – recognizing that these measures were discriminatory and did not contribute to the overall well-being of sex workers, acknowledging their autonomy and right to make decisions about their own bodies. The small owner-operator sex work service provider register has also been abolished, streamlining the administrative processes for those in the industry. Additionally, advertising controls applicable to the sex work industry have been revised to align with the new regulatory framework, allowing for responsible and lawful promotion of services. Amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 ensure that the industry is protected from discrimination and have equal access to employment opportunities.


The second stage, proposed for implementation in December 2023, will aim to further enhance the regulatory landscape, notably; abolishing the sex work service provider licensing system, established under the Sex Work Act 1994, allowing for an improved and inclusive approach to industry regulation; strengthening legislation aimed and enforcing offenses related to children to safeguard the most vulnerable individuals and ensure that current protective measures are strengthened and remain in place.

Most notably, planning legislation is proposed to be amended to ensure the sex industry is on par with other businesses and are allowed the opportunity to operate within appropriate zoning and land-use guidelines. Furthermore, appropriate liquor controls will be established for the industry, ensuring that establishments offering adult entertainment can operate within a regulated framework. Lastly, provisions related to brothels and escort agencies in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 will be repealed, removing specific industry controls and aligning it with broader public health legislation.


These changes reflect a shift in the regulatory framework for the industry; by decriminalizing sex work and transitioning to a new model of regulation, Victoria aims to provide sex workers with the rights, protections, and support they deserve while promoting the health and well-being of all individuals involved in the industry. Notably, agencies such as WorkSafe, the Department of Health, and local governments are proposed to take on the responsibility of overseeing industry practices, ensuring industry and community satisfaction is paramount to any regulatory and enforcement framework.


I am understanding of concerns regarding the perceived increase in undetected sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may arise as a result of legislative changes, however it is important to acknowledge that these also come with regulatory requirements that aim to address these issues and promote a safer environment within the industry. Along with industry cohorts and advocates, I will actively encourage regular testing and compliance with these regulations! It is crucial to recognize that the journey towards the recognition of sex workers' rights has been a long and hard-fought battle and it is imperative to hold accountable those individuals who fail to comply with these regulations and jeopardize the health and well-being of the community as a whole.


Challenges still exist, there is no hiding from that (for example; incalls are still prohibited, limiting the options available to those in the industry) and the full decriminalization of the entire sex work industry has yet to be achieved, leaving some workers vulnerable to legal repercussions and discrimination; addressing these challenges require ongoing advocacy, education and industry-appropriated regulatory and policy reform. It is essential to continue advocating for full decriminalization, addressing the remaining challenges, and actively working towards a society that embraces diversity, supports individual choices, and upholds the rights of all its members. Together, we can create a brighter and more inclusive future for the industry.



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