Sex workers blast ‘frustrating’ loopholes in new law reforms as industry moves to decriminalisation

Sex workers in Victoria are free of some of the draconian laws that have impacted their lives and business for years – but there are still a number of glaring issues that are impacting their ability to make money.

Sex worker Davina, who has more than 20 years experience both here and overseas, said there were still restrictions on when and where they could operate.

‘We don’t understand why we’re still partially criminalised,’ Davina, who did not want to give her last name or show her face, told Daily Mail Australia.

‘We’re supposed to live in a secular society so why are there laws that particularly target us, criminalising us on prescribed religious holidays?

‘But that’s just my personal opinion, and it’s one shared by several other street-based sex workers. 

‘There is still a lot of frustration that the laws don’t go far enough.’

Street-based sex work still has restrictions, with workers fearing reprisal from police

Street-based sex work has been decriminalised, but it is still illegal to work at or near places of worship between 6am and 7pm on specific religious days, regardless of whether it is open or not.

The days include holidays celebrated by the Jewish, Christians, Muslims and Orthodox Christians. 

Street-based sex work is also banned at or near schools and childcare between 6am and 7pm. 

Davina also fears reprisals from police, largely due to sex workers’ chequered relationship with officers in the coastal Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. 

‘Historically, police in St Kilda has had a sort of problematic relationship with street-based sex workers,’ she said.

‘So I guess there’s a fear that while street-based sex work is not fully decriminalised, police will use other sort of tactics like anti-social behaviour legislation or drug policing tactics to start to target us, in lieu of targeting us with soliciting offences.’ 

Police in St Kilda have clashed with sex workers in the beachside suburb

Police in St Kilda have clashed with sex workers in the beachside suburb

The new reforms have been in effect since May 10.

Other changes included the prohibition of people and organisations from discriminating against workers and offences for working with a sexually transmitted infection or not using safe sex practices were repealed.

Changes were also made to the Equal Opportunity Act and controls put on sex workers to advertise their services.

Davina said the industry was thankful for the reforms but that there were still ways the police and government were discriminating against them. 

Sex workers in Victoria have been living under new reforms to their industry for more than a week

Sex workers in Victoria have been living under new reforms to their industry for more than a week

Davina said it was good her clients were no longer criminalised, but sex workers still wanted the reforms to go further.

‘Our clients are no longer criminalised (for seeking out sex workers), so that’s massive … there’s been a positive response to that. But we don’t feel like it goes far enough,’ she said. 

‘Amongst our community, there’s also a lot of confusion about how these changes in laws will be implemented.’

Street-based sex worker still has limits on it, leaving Davina worried about her wellbeing

Street-based sex worker still has limits on it, leaving Davina worried about her wellbeing

Melbourne sex workers have had a difficult relationship with Victoria Police

Melbourne sex workers have had a difficult relationship with Victoria Police

Sex workers descended on Victoria’s state parliament to celebrate the reforms being passed in February, showing off signs that read ‘sex work is real work’ and ‘no bad whores, just bad laws’. 

Davina said she was looking forward to there being ‘less barriers’ to their community.

‘We’d like to be treated with the same respect and be afforded the same rights that people from other communities and broader society area, especially when it comes to institutions and the justice system,’ she said.

Davina said another issue was the representation of sex workers in popular culture.

‘Most of the time we are portrayed as sort of being like disposable and murder-worthy victims,’ she said.

‘We’re not portrayed as being strong, powerful, autonomous people.’ 

Victorian sex workers celebrating after the reforms were passed

Victorian sex workers celebrating after the reforms were passed 

Vixen Collective, Victoria’s peer sex worker organisation, was one of the groups that advocated hardest for reforms to the industry.

Acting manager Dylan O’Hara told Daily Mail Australia there were plenty of positives in the reforms but the collective had hoped ‘all sex workers in Victoria would get to enjoy the full benefits of decriminalisation’.

‘We have rights and we deserve to have access to the same level of support as others in the community,’ O’Hara said.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10832337/Sex-workers-blast-frustrating-loopholes-new-law-reforms-industry-moves-decriminalisation.html

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