Vic decriminalises street-based sex work

·2-min read

Sex workers are free to operate on Victoria's streets, as new laws kick in with a view to making those in the industry safer.

The rules came into effect on Tuesday, making street-based sex work legal except for in a small number of circumstances.

The government said workers would feel more confident reporting crimes against them and accessing support because of the change.

Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said the shift was "an important milestone for sex work decriminalisation in Victoria".

Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt said everyone deserved to feel safe at work.

"With a dedicated Sex Work Safety Team within WorkSafe, we'll make sure sex work is regulated appropriately, with the best guidance and procedures in place to keep workers safe," she said.

Reason Party leader Fiona Patten, a longtime advocate for sex workers who was a key proponent in the changes happening, said she was pleased to see the laws come into force.

She said she did not expect street-based sex work to grow in the state, given "we have a very small cohort of street-based sex workers in Victoria and Melbourne".

"Overseas and internationally and interstate ... shows us that it doesn't increase sex work, it just makes it safer," she said.

"It just enables those sex workers to be able to report crimes against them and, given the nature of the work, they can often be vulnerable to that."

The change falls under the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2021.

Under the reforms, people and organisations are also prohibited from discriminating against or refusing someone service on the basis they are a sex worker.

The legislation makes it an offence for sex work to be carried out near schools, care services and places of worship between 6am and 7pm and on holy days.

The second round of Victoria's sex work reforms is due to come into effect in late 2023, when the sex work licensing system will be scrapped.

Victoria is the third jurisdiction to decriminalise sex work after New South Wales in 1995 and the Northern Territory in 2019.

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