Sex work and the Law

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By St Kilda Legal Service

The First and Second World Wars pushed sex work into the inner city suburbs including St Kilda with reports of sex workers on Acland Street dating back to 1886.

It is important to know, that sex work is not illegal in the state of Victoria. Each state and territory has different laws and regulations relating to sex work. Under Victorian law, sex work can legally be carried out under licensing conditions applicable to brothels, escort agencies, and small owner-operated business. To engage in legal sex work, a person must register with the Business Licensing Authority (BLA). The sex worker must be over 18 and choose to provide sexual services.

Under the law, sex work is defined as the provision by one person to or for another person (whether or not of a different sex) of sexual services in return for payment or reward.

It is illegal to force a person to engage in sex work, to continue sex work, or to hand over the proceeds of sex work by assaulting, threatening, intimidating them or by supplying a drug of dependence. Forcing someone to engage in sex work and forcing someone to hand over the proceeds of sex work are two serious offences punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment each.

Street sex work is illegal. It’s an offence to sell, attempt to sell, buy or attempt to buy sexual services in a public place. Each offence has increased penalties for second and subsequent offences. There are also harsher penalties if these offences take place near a place of worship, hospital, school, kindergarten or a public place frequented by children and in which children are present. The penalty for a first offence is up to 10 penalty units (this could be a fine of up to $1,553.60) or imprisonment for up to 1 month. If a person attempts to purchase sexual services near one of these places for a first offence the penalty is up to 30 penalty units (this could be a fine of up to $4,663.80) or imprisonment for up to 3 months.

It is also illegal to work in a premise that does not have a planning permit from the local council, or in unlicensed brothels and escort agencies.

Every person must be respectful to sex workers. It is an offence to be in or near a public place with the intention of:

  • Intimidating, insulting or harassing a sex worker;
  • Behaving in an indecent, offensive or insulting manner towards a sex worker; or
  • Using threatening, abusive or insulting words towards a sex worker.

 

The penalty for this offence is up to 30 penalty units (this could be a fine of up to $4,663.80) or imprisonment for up to 3 months.

 

St Kilda Legal Service has extensive experience in assisting sex workers with a range of legal issues. If you need legal advice call St Kilda Legal Service on 9534 0777 to make an appointment.

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