New move towards better laws for Queensland sex workers


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Photo: DecrimQLD

The Queensland Government has asked the state’s Law Reform Commission for new laws for the local sex industry, in a move welcomed by sex worker advocates pushing for full decriminalisation.

A parliamentary committee was looking at new draft laws to strengthen police powers to crack down on brothels.

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This included new powers for the Prostitution Licensing Authority to “enter, search, seize and require the production of documents” at private premises.

But those new changes have been pulled and the Queensland Law Reform Commission asked to conduct a broader legal review into the sex industry, the Courier-Mail reported.

In a letter to the committee, Police Minister Mark Ryan said Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath had asked the QLRC to develop “an appropriate regulatory framework” for the industry.

“Given the decision to refer this matter to the QLRC, the Premier has granted permission to remove [the] proposed amendments,” Ryan wrote.

Several groups, including DecrimQLD, are pushing for law changes to fully decriminalise sex work in Queensland.

Queensland’s sex workers say current laws force them to choose between working safely or obeying the law.

Current laws prevent independent sex workers working together or sharing their location with others for safety.

Only a handful of legal brothels operate in Queensland. As a result, an estimated 80 per cent of sex workers operate outside the law.

‘Evidence shows decriminalisation of sex work is best practice’

DecrimQLD leader Janelle Fawkes welcomed the QLRC referral, saying a “really strong review of the entire regulation” is needed.

“We hope the QLRC will consider decriminalisation and the evidence that shows that model to be best practice,” she said.

Fawkes said similar moves were also underway in other states’ parliaments.  Also, groups including the World Health Organization and Amnesty International support reform.

“Right now, South Australia and the Northern Territory both have decriminalisation bills before parliament,” she said.

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“There’s also a national trend towards decriminalisation because of the large amount of research and evidence from locations where it has been introduced.

“We welcome the [Attorney-General’s] announcement but this is not something that can be delayed. It is sex workers’ safety at stake.”

DecrimQld campaigner Elyse Coles said the current legislation came about after the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption in Queensland.

“In early 1991 after gay law reform and the recommendations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry there was a moment of optimism that the persecution and stigma of being an LGBTIQ sex worker would soon be in the past,” she said.

“It was a fleeting moment as the new laws and regulations created more stigma and isolation than we could have ever imagined.”

Read more: Stark choice for Queensland sex workers – work safely or obey the law

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