Media Release

Time to decriminalise sex work

09 May 2018

The Law Society welcomes the introduction in Parliament of a Bill to decriminalise sex work.

The Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill provides for the full decriminalisation of sex work, which the Law Society believes is the best model for the protection of workers, most of whom are women, in the sex industry.

“After several attempts to decriminalise sex work, it’s high time that existing antiquated laws are overhauled and sex workers are afforded the same rights and protections as any other employee,” Law Society President Tim Mellor said.

Mr Mellor said that the safety and wellbeing of sex workers is compromised by existing laws which criminalise sex work.

“The illegitimacy of sex work serves as a barrier for sex workers to report abuse and other mistreatment,” Mr Mellor said. “Often workers are too scared to report abuse because their industry is shrouded in criminality.”

Mr Mellor said police already have wide search powers to investigate criminal activity such as trafficking or sexual servitude.

“We would expect that by decriminalising the industry and granting workers basic protections, workers would be more likely to assist authorities with their investigations,” Mr Mellor said.

Mr Mellor said that while many sex workers worked in the industry of their own free will, there were also a number of workers, predominately women, with tragic backstories who enter the industry out of desperation.

“It is humiliating and degrading for these women to be brought before the courts, publicly shamed, forced to pay a significant fine despite their poverty, be refused bail because they are homeless and be facing a conviction which could seriously harm any prospects of making a better life for themselves.”