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Decriminalisation, Legalisation, Swedish Model, #RightsNotRescue

If you watched Lateline on 13/03/2015 you would have seen a few segments discussing Decriminalisation, Legalisation and Criminalisation. You would have seen the discussion on the Swedish model for sex work. If you didn’t feel free to read the transcripts for the interviews listed below

Interview: The Scarlet Alliance’s Jules Kim

Sweden criminalises the clients who pay for prostitutes

Interview: Sex worker rights advocate Kerry Porth

Reaching out to sex workers


I will be totally honest in saying I found all of the above interview difficult to watch. Why? Because the host seemed to have a problem with Sex Work being legitimate work. But Sex Work is Legitimate Work lets be clear on that before I proceed.


Everyones experience within this industry is different. There are good experiences, bad experiences and experiences in between. But think about this. When you go to work, do you always have a great day at work? Or sometimes do you have a bad day? Are you always in a job where you have a great boss or are there times when you don’t? Some people experience sexual harassment in their work places. Some people have a great work place. This applies to sex work as well.


We all have a job to earn an income.. Sometimes you aren’t in a job you like, but you go so you can earn an income to pay bills, to be able to enjoy thing in life. Sex work is like any other job we go to work to earn an income to pay our bills.. We pay taxes, we need health insurance, car insurance, home insurance. We need to buy groceries, and pay our rent or loans, and we like to enjoy our lives.


Most sex workers don’t dream of being sex workers as a child.. But as adults we have the ability to be able to make choices on what we wish to do for a living. If I choose to be a sex worker then that is my choice. If I found it wasn’t suitable for me I have no issue with leaving of my own free will and look else where for work. But its still my choice if I wish to stay.  Decriminalisation means that as a grown woman I can choose to do sex work safely.. and operate in an effective manner and also in a way where it is recognised as a job like any other small business.


There are those in the industry who have mental health issues, drug issues, alcohol issues and use sex work to support themselves. By decriminalising sex work it means that if they choose so they can have access to health professionals if needed. Please note (as was pointed out to me via twitter) – these issues are not specific to sex work. These issues can and do apply to people in other business and professions besides sex workers…


There is a lot of stigma about sex work that can be detrimental to us as humans, as people. It means that many cant be open about their work on rental applications, loan application, it isn’t something that we can put on our resume if we decide to apply for work else where, it means that many feel they have to live double lives and how can this be healthy for those who choose to do this for work?




Lets talk about the meanings

Whats the difference between Decriminalisation and Legalisation


Donna M. Hughes, PhD, Professor and Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island, wrote in the Oct. 20, 2004 National Review article “Women’s Wrongs” that:
“Legalization would mean the regulation of prostitution with laws regarding where, when, and how prostitution could take place. Decriminalization eliminates all laws and prohibits the state and law-enforcement officials from intervening in any prostitution-related activities or transactions, unless other laws apply.”
Prostitutes’ Education Network, in the article “Prostitution Law Reform: Defining Terms” posted on its website (accessed Feb. 12, 2007), stated:
“There is no official definition of legalized or decriminalized prostitution. Those who are not familiar with the contemporary discussion about prostitution law reform usually use the term ‘legalization’ to mean any alternative to absolute criminalization, ranging from licensing of brothels to the lack of any laws about prostitution. Most references to law reform in the media and in other contemporary contexts use the term ‘legalization’ to refer to any system that allows some prostitution. These common definitions of legalization are extremely broad. Conflicting interpretations of this term often cause confusion in a discussion of reform….
[T]he term legalization usually refers to a system of criminal regulation and government control of prostitutes…

[T]he term decriminalization… mean the removal of laws against prostitution…”

Kimberly Klinger, writer, in the Jan.-Feb. 2003 The Humanist article “Prostitution, Humanism, and a Woman’s Choice,” wrote:
“Decriminalization essentially means the removal of laws against this and other forms of sex work…

By contrast the term legalization usually refers to a system of governmental regulation of prostitutes wherein prostitutes are licensed and required to work in specific ways…. This is the practice in Nevada, the only state in the United States where brothels are legal. Although legalization can also imply a decriminalized, autonomous system of prostitution, the reality is that in most ‘legalized’ systems the police control prostitution with criminal codes. Laws regulate prostitutes’ businesses… prescribing health checks and registration of health status.”

The Swedish Model has been shown to be more harmful then beneficial for sex workers. At the end of the day it has been designed to essentially try and make sex work disappear. Why? Because it criminalises the clients. But makes selling sex legal. So by making the purchase of sex illegal means that sex workers cant screen their clients properly, they have to take it more underground, and puts sex workers in a much more dangerous position and at higher risk of assault and rape. How is this Beneficial to either Sex Workers or our clients?
Read more on the Swedish Model here




I want to be clear – Sex work and sex trafficking are 2 separate things and so need to be dealt with differently. Decriminalisation means that sex work is regulated like any other small business in Australia which then means the government can have separate laws for trafficking. We do not want trafficking laws to be tied in with sex work laws.. Why? Because there are many who make the choice to do sex work while trafficking victims do not make the choice.
There are many benefits to Decriminalisation here in Australia. Taken from the Scarlet Alliance Website


  • We currently have a system of decriminalisation in NSW, which we have had for 17 years.
  • Decriminalisation was introduced because of corruption by police and by removing police as regulators has successfully addressed corruption. Police are inappropriate regulators of the sex industry and we are glad they’re out!
  • We have a very strong base of evidence and experience that supports decriminalisation as the best model of regulation of the sex industry. We have equally strong evidence of the failure of licensing and registration in other states.
  • Decriminalisation is supported by the United Nations, and NSW is world renowned for its best- practice model. A move away from decriminalisation is to step back 17 years in sex worker health and safety.
  • Decriminalisation is what sex workers want. The current regulatory system is the best and we do not need a reform to the current system in NSW.
  • Decriminalisation has brought improved work safety, high rates of safer sex practice and low rates of sexually transmitted infections and no evidence of organised crime.
  • Decriminalisation means sex workers can access support in the event of a crime.
  • Decriminalisation means that sex industry businesses are already regulated like other businesses, subject to existing regulatory mechanisms such as local council planning and zoning regulations, WorkCover and the Australian Taxation Office. Suggested improvements would be if these mechanisms were applied fairly and sex industry businesses were actually treated like any other business.
  • A decriminalised system amplifies opportunities for outreach, magnifies capacities for peer education, supports sex worker self-determination, maximises compliance, increases transparency and minimises discrimination.


In conclusion, decriminalisation is the only option to ensure – The health and safety of sex workers, to ensure the right to run our business properly, to help remove stigma and separate sex work and sex trafficking. To ensure there are good laws not bad ones.




Public Submissions written or endorsed by Scarlet Alliance

Selected Media and News on Sex Work – Scarlet Allinace

Research – Scarlet Alliance

#RightsNotRescue – Twitter

Sex Workers Need Rights Not Rescue! – Free Thoughts Blog

Sex worker, Health Promotion Worker, Activist; Christian Vega – Blog

Evidence not morality should guide sex work policy – The Conversation

Amnesty International: Decriminalising Sex Work – What Are The Issues?

Right Now – Human Rights in Australia  – Sex Workers: We know what we want – Article by Ryan Cole

Open letter to Australian feminists concerned about sex worker exploitation

2 thoughts on “Decriminalisation, Legalisation, Swedish Model, #RightsNotRescue

    • Author gravatarAuthor gravatar

      The argument over the decriminalisation or legalization of sex work can be a confusing and overwhelming one for a person not involved in the industry. However, what has become apparent to me is that sex work is entered into for a number of different reasons and that without an objective lens one can easily lead to wrongful stereotypical judgmental conclusions that could not be further from the truth. As I have discovered there is intelligence, choice and empowerment in professionals providing a sex working service on a consensual, safe basis.

      When one looks at the United Nations position on Sex Work one clearly and logically reaches a conclusion that our country, modern day Australia, legally segregates and intentionally discriminates against sex workers.

      The United Nations Charter of Human Rights states:

      Article I
      All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of equal fellowship.

      Article 2
      Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

      Article 3
      Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

      Article 6
      Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

      Article 7
      All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

      In this discussion of decriminalisation or legalization the issue of sex work has been linked to sex trafficking. This is not justified or valid. Sex trafficking is an illegal act that clearly violates the rights of the individual often girls and women. What needs to be stated is that this form of gendered violence takes away the rights of these individuals often by force and coercion with no recognition of the above rights of the UN Human Charter. In contrast, the majority of Sex workers in Australia are adults who are making an informed choice to make a professional living in safe, respectful and accountable way. Both towards their clients but also towards the greater community of which they are part of.

      Let this point be made clear. Sex workers are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, uncles and aunties, and grandparents. They are our family and should be respected as such. I implore that consideration and open discussion be given to the needs and rights of sex workers in our modern Australian society.

      The United Nations has clearly stated and recommended that Sex Work internationally be decriminalised and countries that have done so have reported better outcomes for Sex Workers. More importantly, Sex workers in these countries have as community members been made to feel valued, respected and empowered. Indeed, as the United Nations of Human Rights Charter clearly outlines in its various articles and which fundamentally was drafted with the intent of protecting everyone’s human rights. Yes, that does include sex workers and yes sex workers are human beings like the rest of us.

      Lastly, our governments inability to recognise the need for change and implement laws towards the decriminalisation of sex work is just another example of systems abuse and absolute power being corrupt. Consider this. What is the difference between the individuals who are responsible for human trafficking and the current government that fails to recognise the rights of sex workers?

      My answer…. They are the same as both are forms of violence that violate the rights of people period. It violates the United Nations charter of human rights and should not be accepted. Australia we need to take a stand in support of our Sex Workers. They matter and have equal rights as the rest of us.

    • […] have previously blogged about decriminalisation and why it needs to happen. Click here to take a look. But to go over it again, There are many reasons that decriminalisation is […]

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