Feminist wins: sex work decriminalisation and safe access zones

Decriminalisation is a huge win for Victorian sex workers.

Art by Camille Ayre

Victoria to decriminalise sex work

By Paola Ayre and Priya Gupta

The Victorian Government has announced it will be decriminalising sex work, after an industry review initiatated in 2019 by MP Fiona Patten.

The sex industry will now be regulated by standard business and OHS laws, instead of Victoria police. A variety of public health and anti-discrimination reforms will also be introduced over the next two years. Once complete, Victorian laws will resemble those of NSW, which decriminalised its sex industry in 1995 after the Wood Royal Commission revealed entrenched police corruption. Most recently, the NT voted for decriminalision in response to a dedicated campaign led by the Scarlet Alliance and a grassroots collective of sex workers. 

Decriminalisation is an enormous win for Victorian sex workers, who have long suffered under a flawed two tiered legalisation model which legally excluded all but an economically privileged few. All workers can now report violence and unfair management practises without fear of prosecution.

Safe access zones legislated across every state

By Ariana Haghighi

This week, another barrier to abortion access has been abolished. Anti-choice hecklers have utilised social stigma against abortion to shame and prevent people from accessing abortion clinics for years. But now, Safe Access Zones have become national. State governments have implemented laws banning protests within at least 150m of a clinic, creating a safe zone in which individuals cannot be harassed or harangued. As of the 12th August 2021, Western Australia was the final state to pass legislation banning picketing near a clinic. Only three LNP Upper House members opposed this Bill, highlighting its positive reception. Although it is a landmark step for all states to legislate safe access zones,  many other obstacles remain which still prevent individuals from accessing safe abortions. Pervasive stigma, criminalisation in certain states, and other barriers mean there remains significant work to be done. However, today we take comfort in this powerful win.