Legal Status Of Sex Work In SA Remains Controversial

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The legal status of sex work in South Australia has been a hot topic of late. Government back bench MP Steph Key has introduced multiple bills, such as the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2013, which would have decriminalised escorts in Sydney. The bill would have amended several statutes to abolish criminal offences relating to prostitution, provide a legal definition of ‘sex worker’, specifically outlaw the provision of commercial sexual services to a minor, provide legal protection against discrimination on the basis of someone’s status as a sex worker under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA), wiped prior criminal convictions for prostitution, and provided for sex workers to be covered under the state’s workers’ injury compensation scheme if they are in an employee relationship with a brothel or other employer who pays the requisite levy, in line with any other South Australian business. The proposed Bill would have also required operators of brothels to register their businesses with the South Australian government’s small business agency.

The bills previously introduced by Steph Key were put to a conscience vote, with Labor and Liberal MPs both voting in favour and against the bill, Greens MPs generally in favour, and Family First MPs generally opposed in the past. One Family First MLC, Dennis Hood, stated that he believed that decriminalisation would lead to more people becoming escorts. Industry groups have spoken in favour of the bills proposed by Steph Key, including at a rally in front of Parliament House on North Tce in mid 2013, where multiple representatives of sex worker and sex industry groups spoke, along with MLC Tammy Franks. The Opposition Spokesperson on the Status of Women, Vicki Chapman, who is also among the most senior figures in the South Australian opposition and a possible future contender for leadership, has also stated to an Adelaide newspaper that she supports the decriminalisation of sex work and erasure of previous convictions, such as those that were made under the Criminal Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) and the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA). Visit 

In places such as New South Wales and New Zealand, escort services and sex work have already been decriminalised. Advocates state that decriminalisation of sex work will lead to greater occupational health and safety and industrial protections for sex workers. Decriminalisation, as seen in New Zealand, has also been described as a ‘world best practice’ model that resulted there in decreased rates of unsafe sex occurring on a commercial basis, a decrease in the rate of sexually transmitted infections among sex workers, improved working conditions, and no increase in the involvement of organised crime in the sex industry, according to advocates. The United Nations has also stated in previous reports that decriminalisation is the most preferable approach in order to improve the working conditions and occupational health and safety of sex workers.