Victorian government to sanction the sexual exploitation of women as ‘work’

Victorian government to sanction the sexual exploitation of women as ‘work’

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:

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.