A BILL to decriminalise sex work in South Australia has passed the Upper House in a late-night session.

The Private Member’s Bill, put forward by Liberal MLC Michelle Lensink in 2015, passed the Legislative Council last night 13-8 in a debate that ran past midnight, according to The Advertiser.

The bill will now be debated in the Lower House before a conscience vote by MPs.

Sex work, an industry one in five queer men have worked in, is currently completely illegal in South Australia.

Lensink said the reform was “long overdue”.

“It’s very important to the 2,000 people who work in the sex industry in SA,” she said.

“They’ve told me… for decades that they don’t feel safe and police have a conflict of interest if they report incidents of rape or assault.

“Police have a conflict in protecting them but using it in evidence against them.”

The development follows years of campaigning by sex worker activists in South Australia.

Sharon Jennings from the South Australian Sex Industry Network said the proposed change is an exciting and welcome one for workers in the state.

“It will mean better safety for sex workers, better access to police if we’re victims of crime, and better access to health services,” said Jennings.

“It will mean the start of breaking down the stigma that surrounds commercial sexual services.

“That freedom of choice, to be able to do what you want to do for a living—it’s not everybody’s ideal job but it’s some people’s choice, it’s my choice and my community’s choice, and the law shouldn’t stipulate that we’re not allowed to make those choices.”

The proposed reform would see sex work treated like any other industry, similar to decriminalisation of the industry in New South Wales.

“It’s certainly not a perfect model, but it’s the best model available to us at this time,” said Jennings.

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