Reforms promise better protection for Queensland’s sex workers

Published Thursday, 02 May, 2024 at 05:13 PM

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

  • Queensland Parliament has passed laws to decriminalise the sex work industry
  • The legislation will improve the rights and personal safety of sex workers
  • Existing criminal offences relating to sex workers will be repealed
  • The laws were formed following an independent review into the decriminalisation of the sex work industry.

The health, safety and workplace rights of Queensland’s sex workers will be vastly improved, thanks to new laws passed today.

Under the legislation, the sex work industry will be decriminalised and criminal offences applying specifically to sex workers will be repealed.

The Criminal Code (Decriminalising Sex Work) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 will also protect sex workers from unfair discrimination, create new offences to protect children from involvement in sex work, and specifically prohibit a person being coerced to perform sex work.

The Bill implements the findings of the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC), which was commissioned to review the decriminalisation of the sex work industry.

The QLRC review incorporated evidence-based research and feedback from consultation with the public and key stakeholder groups.

It examined the experiences of jurisdictions where sex work is already decriminalised, including New South Wales, Northern Territory, Victoria and New Zealand.

The reforms also reflect feedback from the sex work industry, particularly in relation to current laws criminalising strategies that keep workers safe.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath;

“Every worker has the right to feel safe, including sex workers.

“The Bill is designed to improve the rights of sex workers while considering the needs and expectations of the community.

“The new laws ensure workers have access to the same human rights and workplace health and safety protections as other Queensland workers.

“Sex workers should not have to choose between operating legally with safety risks and operating safely with legal risks – they will now be able to operate both safely and legally.

“These reforms will make the sex work industry safer, fairer and reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary, Jacqueline King;

“Today is a historic day for sex workers in Queensland.

“The passing of this bill, decriminalising all forms of sex work across the state, is a massive step forward in ensuring sex workers’ health and safety will now be treated with the same protections as every other worker in Queensland.

“These reforms reverse antiquated legislation that for too long left sex workers unsafe, vulnerable, and unprotected.

“Queensland Unions commends the Miles Labor Government on its decision to enact this framework and support workers in their ability to attend workplaces that are safeguarded from violence.

“For too long, the safety of sex workers has taken a back seat to draconian laws that many governments were happy to see left in the shadows.”

Quotes attributable to Respect Inc State Coordinator, Lulu Holiday;

"Respect Inc welcomes the passage of the Bill as it will provide wide-ranging improvements to the health and safety of sex workers in Queensland.

"Importantly, laws criminalising sex worker safety strategies, including working together, letting another sex worker know your location and checking-in to say you are okay at the end of a booking, are repealed by this Bill. 

"Under current laws sex workers are reluctant to report crime. Barriers to accessing justice are reduced when sex work is no longer criminalised.

"Sex workers experience excessive levels of discrimination. Decriminalisation, including anti-discrimination protections, will send a message that it will no longer be tolerated.”

Quotes attributable to DecrimQLD Campaign Leader, Janelle Fawkes;

"Sex work is work and the framework set out in this Bill both repeals criminalisation and provides protections for sex workers.

"Decriminalisation doesn't increase the size of the industry, it extends protections to every workplace.

"Sex workers are part of the Queensland community and while it will take some time to reverse the profound impacts of criminalisation, this reform is an essential step to achieving that.

"The Miles Government has listened to sex workers and by enacting the recommendations from the QLRC report is ensuring workers have the protections needed within a well-regulated industry.”