On February 10 2022, the Victorian Parliament passed laws to decriminalise sex work, supporting the (Labor) government position that sex work needs to be treated the same as any other type of work. The debate, the culmination of decades of work by many sex work supporters and advocates, was won by emphasising the role of Work over the concerns about Sex. This is a strategy that other workplace safety advocates may consider.
The Australian State of Victoria has committed to the decriminalisation of sex work. It made this decision some time ago, conducted an inquiry into how this could be achieved and is now in a further consultative process on what laws and practices need to change. The aim is honourable – to reduce the stigma of a legitimate industry. However, there is one statement repeated in media releases and discussion papers that encapsulates the challenge:
“Decriminalisation recognises that sex work is legitimate work and should be regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries in the state.”
That challenge is can, and should, Victoria’s sex industry be treated like “all other industries”?
Thinking about the occupational health and safety (OHS) issues of sex work is fascinating and, to some, titillating. But work is work and the OHS issues are just as real in a room in a brothel as in any other workplace. The workplace hazards presented by COVID19 to the Australian sex industry have been identified and addressed in some excellent OHS advice from Scarlet Alliance.
Sex workers need to screen clients already for visible signs of sexually transmitted diseases so personal questions about health and infections is already part of the customer relations. (There are also requirements for customers to shower or wash prior to services) The questions asked in relation to COVID19 are the same as asked elsewhere:
The Victorian Government has announced a review of the regulations pertaining to sex work. It will include several areas related to occupational health and safety (OHS):
- Workplace safety including health and safety issues and stigma and discrimination against sex workers
- Regulatory requirements for operators of commercial sex work businesses
- And the safety and wellbeing of sex workers, including the experience of violence that arises in the course of sex work and as a consequence of it, and worker advocacy for safety and wellbeing
Consumer Affairs has carriage of the Sex Work laws but the breadth of the review would have been better served if the announcement had been a joint one with the Minister for Workplace Safety and Minister for Health.
This review should offer a real challenge to Victoria’s OHS laws, the OHS profession, consultants, advocates and critics.Continue reading “Sex Work review includes many OHS matters”
In early July 2019, my son and I braved a cold Melbourne Friday night to see our very first improvisational comedy show. The catalyst was a show called “F**k this, I Quit“, produced by the Improv Conspiracy, and which is based on the work experiences of the audience there on the night. I was one of around fifteen in the audience, in a room that only holds forty people, and so occupational health and safety (OHS) became a featured theme that night. I, and OHS, was roasted and it was definitely the funniest night of my professional life.
Several audience members were asked about their work experiences. I mentioned that I consulted in OHS, had provided advice to some of Victoria’s licenced brothels, had an uncomfortable conversation one time about discussing nipples while at work and that I thought the most dangerous workplace hazard was electricity as it was invisible and deadly.Continue reading “The absurdity of Work”
In 2017 the Victorian Government reviewed and revised its
Dr Caroline Norma had an opinion piece published in The Age newspaper on October 24 2018 that fails to acknowledge the occupational health and safety (OHS) duties of Victorian businesses operating sexual services. SafetyAtWorkBlog has looked closely at OHS in this industry sector before and has previously communicated with Dr Norma on sex work safety. Dr Norma’s current article illustrates a common perspective on workplace safety and health issues where one set of legislation dominates the public policy conversation rather than the multidisciplinary approach.
It is necessary to clarify Dr Norma’s opening statement:
“The Victorian Labor Party will consider fully deregulating the state’s sex industry if re-elected to office in November.”
According to the 2018 Platform of the Victorian Australian Labor Party (ALP), in the context of Human Rights and Equal Opportunity, the ALP will:
“recommend that the Victorian Law Reform Commission consider decriminalisation of all sex work in Victoria as per other systems recognised internationally by human rights organisations.” (page 87)