The best way to protect workers in the sex industry is to embrace a model of full decriminalisation, according to lawyers in South Australia.
The Law Society of South Australia reaffirmed its position on the issue last week.
President Tony Rossi said that people working in the industry should be afforded the same rights and protections as any other industry. He suggested that it was unacceptable in modern society to permit that sex workers can be exploited by not giving them the minimum standards of workplace safety.
“By shrouding the industry in criminality, sex workers are marginalised and stigmatised, leaving them more open to exploitation and making it difficult for sex workers to make plans to leave the industry if they wish to do so,” Mr Rossi said.
“It’s time to bring our laws in this area into the modern age.”
Being able to investigate suspected criminal activity in the industry would not be hindered by the decriminalisation of the industry in South Australia, he added.
“The criminal status of sex work is a major barrier to sex workers, mostly women, reporting instances of abuse,” Mr Rossi said.
“Decriminalisation would remove this barrier and provide a more secure environment for workers to speak up about and prevent abuse and other forms of inappropriate treatment, knowing they are backed by work health and safety laws,” he said.
The Law Society president said that if the state adopted a full decriminalisation model, it would not impede the existing police search powers.
“The decriminalisation of sex work would not impact the ability of police to investigate offences such as trafficking and sexual servitude. In fact, decriminalising the sex industry would encourage staff to co-operate with authorities with regards to suspected serious criminal behaviour,” Mr Rossi said.
“The police would still, for example, be able to enter premises where it is reasonably suspected that sexual servitude is taking place.”