Why government wants to bring Queensland sex workers ‘out of the dark’

A sex work sector that protects more workers from exploitation and violence is expected to be at the centre of a Queensland government response to a major review of the industry.


Apr 24, 2023, updated Apr 24, 2023
Health Minister Shannon Fentiman. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman wants sex work brought “out of the dark” through a properly regulated industry that prioritises the safety of workers.

“Current laws stigmatise sex workers, it increases their vulnerability to exploitation and violence,” Ms Fentiman told Seven News Brisbane.

There are currently two legal forms of regulated sex work in Queensland: services provided in a licensed brothel, not including outcalls from the premises; and those provided by sole operators in-house or as outcalls.

Any other form of sex work is illegal including services provided by escort agencies, unlicensed brothels, massage parlours and two or more sex workers operating from a single premises.

The state has 20 licensed brothels and most sex work occurs outside the regulated or licensed sector.

The attorney-general asked the Queensland Law Reform Commission to review and investigate the regulation of a new framework for the industry in August 2021.

“Decriminalising sex work will mean sex work is no longer a crime. But it does not mean no regulations or safeguards,” the commission said in a review updated in November.

“People in the sex work industry will have protections and obligations under standard workplace, health, planning and other existing general laws.”

Some 160 submissions have been received, with input from individual sex workers, brothel managers, clients and advocacy organisations.

More information on the state government plan will be released on Monday.

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