The Victorian Liberal Party over the weekend passed a motion to support the Nordic model of sex work regulation.
Sex work advocates have said the Nordic model criminalises clients and the support structures of sex workers, as well as isolating and harming sex workers.
“This is an extremely dangerous step in the wrong direction,” said Jules Kim, CEO of national sex worker association Scarlet Alliance.
“Regardless of their intention, laws that criminalise clients of sex workers, and laws against the support structures and ability of sex workers to organise, harm us.
“They hinder our ability to report crime to the police and have made sex workers more vulnerable to violence.”
Jane Green, spokesperson for Victorian sex worker organisation Vixen Collective, said she is deeply concerned for the impact on sex workers in Victoria if the Nordic model were introduced.
“This will be an absolute disaster for sex workers in Victoria,” Green said.
“The Nordic model harms sex workers,
Sex worker organisations, health and human rights bodies across the world, and extensive research, recognises this.
“The motion to support the Nordic model by the Victorian Liberal Party is a failure to base policy on evidence and to consult with sex workers.
“If the Victorian Liberals seek to move forward with the Nordic model at a parliamentary level it will compound this failure and undermine the health, safety and rights of sex workers in Victoria.
“We know from evidence-based research in countries that have adopted this model that the Nordic model has deteriorated sex workers’ labour and human rights.”
Green said that reviews in France, Canada, Sweden, and Northern Ireland, where similar laws are in place, have demonstrated the negative impacts on sex workers and failure against the stated aims of the legislation.
Conservatives have welcomed the party’s acceptance of the Nordic model.
“The Liberal Party is to be congratulated on taking this important step which will support the vulnerable and is known to reduce human trafficking,” said Australian Christian Lobby Victorian director Dan Flynn.
“After [the] overwhelming vote for the Nordic model, it is expected that if the Liberal Party win the next state election, legislation will follow.”
However, Victorian sex workers have said that the Nordic model would make work more dangerous for them.
“I’m going to keep sex working, but under the Nordic model I’ll just have to do it in a way that endangers me to avoid detection,” said one worker, Lucy.
“If the Nordic model is introduced in Victoria, I will be forced to work under extremely dangerous conditions,” said another, Mary.
“I’m fearful for my financial security and personal safety.”
Peer-based sex worker organisations around the world, including Scarlet Alliance and Vixen Collective, are advocating against the Nordic model.
International health and human rights agencies including Amnesty International, World Health Organization, Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, and Human Rights Watch have all concluded that criminalising sex work and related activities threaten sex worker health, safety and rights.
Spokespeople for Scarlet Alliance and Vixen Collective said they are urging the Liberal Party to reconsider their position and withdraw support for the Nordic model.
Star Observer has reached out to the Victorian Liberal Party for comment on their policies about sex work and LGBTI diversity.