Why SHINE SA Supports International Sex Workers Day and the Decriminalisation of Sex Work

This International Sex Workers Day on 2 June we take the opportunity to reflect on the importance of decriminalisation of sex work[1] in South Australia.

Sex work is criminalised in South Australia which means that those engaging in relevant sex work activities can be prosecuted for criminal offences. SIN, SIDAC (Sex Industry Decriminalisation Action Committee) and Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) advocate for decriminalisation which is seen as a best practice model by sex workers and supportive community-based organisations.

Sex work decriminalisation is a public health issue

The criminalisation of sex work, sex workers and their clients has been found to increase several public health risks. In 2018 a global systematic review[2] led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that any criminalisation of sex work led to increased risk of condomless sex as well as increased risk of infection of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It also found that criminalisation of sex work disrupted support networks as well as safety and risk reduction strategies.

The Australian Government’s Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018-2022 and Fourth National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2018-2022 reiterate the now definitive evidence that decriminalisation of sex work is linked to the reduction of HIV and STI risk. STIs can cause serious, life-threatening complications including cancers, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, and other long term health impacts.

The Fourth National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2018-2022 states,

“Sex workers experience specific barriers to accessing health services, including stigma and discrimination and regulatory and legal issues-criminalisation, licensing, registration and mandatory testing in some jurisdictions.

These can impede access to evidence-based prevention, testing, treatment and support services and can result in increased risk of STI, loss of livelihood, and risk to personal and physical safety.”

Ultimately the decriminalisation of sex work is important to public health not only to reduce stigma and discrimination, but to improve the health and safety of workers, clients and the broader community.

In a recent statement SIDAC said,

“South Australia still has the most outdated sex work laws in the country! Sex work is work and as governments around Australia accept the wealth of evidence and international support for decriminalisation, it is time for South Australia to recognise sex work as work too so sex workers can access the same rights & protections as all other workers.”

Learn more about sex work and the decriminalisation of sex work

SIN (Sex Industry Network) – https://sin.org.au/

Sex Work Law Reform – SIDAC http://www.sexworklawreformsa.com/resources/

Learn more about supporting decriminalisation: http://www.sexworklawreformsa.com/



[1] Sex work is always a consensual exchange between adults. When not consensual, then it is assault, rape or sexual slavery, and it should always be a crime.


[2] Platt L et al (2018) Associations between sex work laws and sex workers’ health: A systematic review and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies (plos.org) PLOS Medicine.