Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the full decriminalisation of prostitution in Victoria, meaning that women’s bodies can be bought and sold with impunity and the sexual abuse of women is legitimised as “work”.
Despite prostitution already being legal in Victoria via brothels, escort agencies or as a private sex worker, a range of legislative reforms will take place over the next two years to effectively deregulate the entire industry.
The Premier’s announcement, titled ‘Making Sex Work Safe Work’, maintains that decriminalisation “recognises that sex work is legitimate work” and will ensure employee rights, increase safety, reduce stigma and improve access to government services for those in the industry.
But the experience overseas and in other Australian states shows that in reality, under a decriminalised model, the violence and stigma associated with the industry continues, human trafficking increases, and pimps and brothel owners are empowered and enriched at the expense of vulnerable women and girls.
Decriminalisation has been unable to create a “safe” environment for those in the sex industry because of inherently abusive and exploitative nature of prostitution itself.
Women’s rights activists took to social media to condemn the move:
“Surely the freedom of women must mean more to us than the freedom of pimps.” - Andrea Dworkinhttps://t.co/vNacRuzU12— Caitlin Roper (@caitlin_roper) August 13, 2021
Men's use of women and girls in the sex industry is inherently violent, abusive and exploitative. It is a human rights violation.— Collective Shout (@CollectiveShout) August 14, 2021
It cannot be made “safer”, and the conditions of this abuse cannot be improved - let alone by giving more power to exploiters.
Only when it comes to the sexual entitlement of prostitution do leftist Australian men understand industry deregulation to mean more worker rights https://t.co/825Zn3WCFz— Caroline Norma卡洛琳諾瑪 캐롤라인 노마 能真かおる (@CarolineNorma76) August 14, 2021
When governments legitimise the sex industry, it “normalises the view that there exists a class of women who exist for men’s use and for their sexual gratification, commodities that can be bought and sold."— Spinifex Press (@spinifexpress) August 14, 2021
- Mary Lucille Sullivan @DanielAndrewsMP
Victoria the pimp state. Abandons women and girls, primarily Asian and migrant women, to buyers and pimps who profit from the sex industry.— CATWA (@CATWAustralia) August 14, 2021
When will Victoria recognise women as equals - not commodities - to be bought and sold? #VAW #EnoughIsEnough #ListenToSurvivors https://t.co/qTxIN4gthy
The decision by the government was based on a review of the prostitution industry by Fiona Patten MP, which recommended full decriminalisation, but in an article for Collective Shout, Caitlin Roper points out serious concerns regarding the review process.
“In what we regarded as a serious abuse of process, sex trade survivor organisations that objected to decriminalising pimps and sex buyers were excluded from participating [in the Victorian government review]. Read the open letter from sex trade survivors in response here.
It was clear from the outset that there was an ideological agenda driving a pre-determined outcome to decriminalise pimping, brothel keeping and sex buying. Fiona Patten, a prominent sex industry lobbyist, former Eros Association CEO, founder of the Australian Sex Party (rebranded as the Reason Party) was appointed to lead the review.
To this day, the inquiry report has been withheld from the public (the taxpayers who paid for it) with requests to release it denied.”
We join with other advocates and sex trade survivors in calling for Victoria to implement the Nordic legislative model, which recognises the inherently violent and exploitative nature of prostitution, addresses demand by criminalising the buyer only and provides exiting services for women who want to escape the industry.