Last week brought the announcement that Victoria had become the third jurisdiction in Australia to ‘decriminalise sex work’. The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2021 Bill passed just before 8.30pm on Thursday 10th February, 24 votes to 10.
While sex worker-led organisations in Australia have welcomed the passage of the Bill, they have also drawn attention to amendments which must be made for Victoria to achieve full decriminalisation.
Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, and Vixen Collective, Victoria’s peer-only sex worker organisation, released a joint statement in response to the passing of the Bill in which they outlined their commitment to advocating for further reforms.
“We want to thank Fiona Patten for her ongoing support for the decriminalisation of sex work and Andy Meddick and his team who have worked together with Vixen and Scarlet Alliance to propose necessary amendments to the Bill, as called for by sex workers in Victoria. In addition to the destruction of the sex work register, the amendments would have brought forth full decriminalisation for all sex workers including street based sex workers, ensured robust anti-discrimination protections by introducing necessary attributes of ‘sex work’ and ‘sex worker’, removed arbitrary advertising restrictions that impact on sex workers’ safety and addressed the discriminatory provisions against sex workers who use drugs.
Without these amendments, Victoria has not yet achieved full decriminalisation. Throughout this process, sex workers have been loud and clear that we will accept nothing less than the full decriminalisation of all forms of sex work, for every member of our community.
We support the passing of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 but will keep advocating for the vital reforms to ensure that no sex workers are left behind. We will keep fighting to ensure that this unfinished business is addressed. We cannot fully celebrate decriminalisation of sex work unless it is decriminalisation for all of us.”
The legislation will now head back to the Legislative Assembly, where Labor commands a majority, to be rubber-stamped on 22nd February. If the legislation passes this vote in the lower house, the implementation starts with tranche 1 on May 10th 2022, and further reforms in Dec 2023.