Sex workers have spoken out against the Victorian Liberal Party’s motion to introduce new laws towards further criminalisation of sex work in the state.

Next week’s party state council meeting will see discussion of a proposal to introduce a ‘Nordic model’ approach to sex work, news.com.au has reported.

Such laws would see sex work remain technically legal, though clients would be criminalised, as would people linked to sex workers, such as landlords.

The motion to the Liberal state council claims that “sexual services have surged into our suburbs in the guise of massage parlours” and “are now closer to our homes and schools than ever before”.

Under current Victorian law, sex work is legal but subject to restrictions—workers must have a government licence number, and cannot see clients in the worker’s own home, for instance.

The Nordic model would make sex work de facto illegal and, advocates argue, would drive the industry underground to the detriment of worker safety.

“One of the best ways that self-employed sex workers like me protect themselves is phone ID,” said one anonymous gay worker in Victoria.

“When someone calls, I can see the number. If it’s a private number, I won’t answer it.

“The Nordic model gives an incentive for clients not to reveal themselves to me, which removes my ability to screen dangerous clients.”

A recent analysis of the impact of similar laws in France found “a detrimental effect on sex workers’ safety, health, and overall living conditions”.

It found that the most vulnerable sex workers, including migrant workers and street-based workers, were more likely to be pushed into poverty.

Almost two thirds of sex workers surveyed by the French research said they had a lower quality of life since the new laws were introduced in 2016, and over three quarters said their earnings had decreased under Nordic model-style criminalisation.

Jane Green from Victorian sex worker group Vixen Collective told Star Observer that the Liberals’ proposal would harm sex workers, as the Nordic model has in other jurisdictions.

“In making a motion for the Nordic model the Victorian Liberals are promoting law that harms sex workers,” said Green.

“Human rights and health bodies worldwide, as well as sex workers ourselves, oppose the Nordic model because these laws are harmful. The policies of any party should be informed by evidence and by consultation with affected communities, not led by prejudice and stigma.

“The evidence is clear that the full decriminalisation of sex work is what supports sex workers’ rights, health and safety—in failing to support decriminalisation the Victorian Liberals are ignoring that evidence.”

Vixen Collective, along with national sex worker organisation Scarlet Alliance, have written to all Liberal Party members asking them not to support the motion.

The letter presents evidence that the Nordic model does not reduce the number of sex workers, but makes workers more vulnerable to violence and less able to report crime to the police, while deteriorating their health and rights.

The organisations note that decriminalisation of sex work leads to better conditions for sex workers.

The Victorian Liberal Party is set to debate the sex work motion and a number of other proposals affecting the LGBTI community, including calls to ban the Safe Schools program, at its state conference next week.

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