Northern Territory parliament fully decriminalises sex work

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Photo: DecrimQLD

The Northern Territory parliament has passed historic legislation fully decriminalising sex work.

NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said being a sex worker was a recognised profession in the NT. However, sex workers have had no protection and minimal rights.

On Tuesday night, the NT Parliament passed the Sex Industry Bill 2019. The bill creates a decriminalised model for workers and ensuring workplace health and safety protections.

Fyles said the Bill enables the industry to operate within existing laws as they apply to all individuals and businesses.

These include employment, occupational health and safety, workers compensation and rehabilitation, planning, taxation and discrimination.

Previously, sex work in the NT was regulated through a combination of three models: decriminalisation, licensing and criminalisation. These were inconsistent and ineffective, Fyles said.

“I acknowledge this Bill and subsequent debate has been contentious for some,” she said.

“But the ultimate goal is better health and safety outcomes for sex workers. All Territorians deserve to be safe at work.”

The new legislation will be reviewed in five years.

NT sex worker laws a ‘momentous’ win for industry

Advocacy group Scarlet Alliance cheered the new laws, saying the NT is only the third jurisdiction in the world to decriminalise the sex industry.

CEO Jules Kim said the win came after decades of campaigning and activism. Dozens of local and national groups “all worked hard together to ensure sex workers have safety at work.”

“This is a momentous day for all sex workers and sets a positive example that sex workers are valued members of the community, deserving of rights and protections.

“We applaud the NT Government for listening to sex workers and the evidence in fully decriminalising sex work in the NT.

“Sex work is work and it is fantastic that it is finally being recognised as such.

“We hope that these critical reforms will demonstrate the importance of best practice partnerships between sex workers and government.

“[We want to see] similar campaigns for the decriminalisation of sex work in other states and territories throughout Australia.”

Queensland advocates call for decriminalisation

In Queensland, sex work is only legal in a licensed brothel or as a sole operator. However, sex workers say current state laws force them to make an impossible choice between working safely or obeying the law.

A number of groups, including DecrimQLD, are pushing for law reform to fully decriminalise sex work in Queensland.

In October, the state government asked the state’s Law Reform Commission to conduct a legal review into the local sex industry.

That same month, police raided an alleged illegal escort agency on the Gold Coast and charged 25 with prostitution offences.

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