What is the Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work?

The full decriminalisation of sex work means the removal of all criminal laws pertaining to consensual adult sex work. Criminal penalties relating to human trafficking, coersion and child exploitation remain. Existing general civil and business laws regulate the sex industry as they do any other.  

Full Decriminalisation

Is the removal of all criminal laws pertaining to consensual adult sex work. As yet, no jurisdiction has this in place, however, two have come close to achieving this ideal. See below. 

Partial Decriminalisation

Is the removal of nearly all criminal laws pertaining to consensual adult sex work. This is the situation in New South Wales, New Zealand and the Northern Territory.

The New Zealand Model
sex workers in New Zealand are better off since decriminalisation (Unsplash: Popa Teodora)

New South Wales

In 1995 New South Wales achieved partial decriminalisation. Certain forms of street-based sex work remain criminalised.

New Zealand

In 2003 New Zealand achieved partial decriminalisation. New Zealand citizens are free to engage in sex work, however, migrants and visitors are not. 

Northern Territory

In 2019 the Northern Territory achieved partial decriminalisation. Northern Territorians are free to engage in sex work, however, minor sex industry specific advertising restrictions remain in place.

Full decriminalisation is a pragmatic approach to regulating the sex industry, an approach that provides the best health and safety conditions for sex workers. Full decriminalisation is endorsed by all sex workers’ rights organisations in Australia as well as Amnesty International. Sex Work Law Reform Victoria wants to see this in place in Victoria.

Last updated: 14 March 2020