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Sex Work Decriminalisation- Global Advocacy


First Study in the Series 'Breaking the Stigma'- a photographic essay of Sex Work Decriminalisation and Advocacy'

It is difficult to determine the exact percentage of global workers engaged in sex work, as the industry is largely underground and often stigmatized, making accurate data collection challenging. However, the United Nations estimates that there are at least 20 million sex workers worldwide. Many sex workers operate in an environment of criminalization, which can lead to increased violence, harassment, and stigma. Issues of equality and basic employment rights such as workplace health and safety are fundamental to the debate. A 2019 report by Amnesty International found that sex workers are at a higher risk of violence and human rights abuses due to criminalization.

Decriminalizing sex work is a controversial and complex issue that has been debated globally for many years. The debate is complex and multi-faceted, and there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue:

Human trafficking: One of the main concerns is that decriminalizing sex work may increase human trafficking and exploitation, particularly of vulnerable populations such as minors and immigrants. Opponents argue that legalizing prostitution may create a demand for commercial sex and lead to increased trafficking and exploitation.

Public health and safety: Proponents of decriminalization argue that legalizing sex work could help protect the health and safety of sex workers by providing them with access to healthcare, legal protection, and the ability to work in safer environments. However, opponents argue that legalizing prostitution may increase the spread of sexually transmitted infections and other health risks.

Stigma and discrimination: Sex workers often face stigma and discrimination, which can lead to social exclusion, harassment, and violence. Decriminalizing sex work may help to reduce this stigma and discrimination, but opponents argue that it may also normalize the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

Gender inequality: Sex work is often linked to gender inequality, as women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination, and exploitation. Some argue that decriminalizing sex work could empower women by providing them with greater control over their bodies and income, while others argue that it could further entrench gender inequality.

Moral and ethical concerns: Decriminalizing sex work raises moral and ethical concerns for many people, as it challenges traditional notions of sexuality and morality. Some argue that prostitution is inherently immoral and that it should be banned, while others argue that consenting adults should be free to engage in sex work without fear of criminalization.​


The Global Conference on the Decriminalisation of Sex Work, held in Sydney, NSW, Australia in 2012 was a groundbreaking event that brought together experts, advocates, policymakers, and sex workers from around the world to discuss the complex issue of sex work and its legal status. The conference aimed to promote a more nuanced and evidence-based approach to sex work policy, with a focus on the benefits of decriminalisation for sex workers, their communities, and public health.

In Australia, the laws regarding sex work vary by state and territory, but in general, sex work is legal but regulated. This means that sex workers can legally offer sexual services in exchange for money, but there are laws in place that govern the industry, such as licensing requirements, health and safety regulations, and rules around advertising. In some states, such as New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, sex work is fully decriminalized, which means that there are no criminal laws that specifically target sex work. This means that sex workers are free to operate independently or work in licensed brothels, and they have the same legal rights as any other worker. In other states, such as Queensland and Victoria, sex work is legal but there are more regulations in place, such as mandatory testing for sexually transmitted infections and restrictions on where and how sex workers can operate.

However, it's important to note that some activities associated with sex work, such as soliciting in public places or running an unlicensed brothel, are still illegal across Australia. Additionally, the age of consent for sexual activity varies by state and territory, but generally ranges from 16 to 18 years old.


Over the course of several days, participants engaged in lively discussions, shared insights and experiences, and explored strategies for advancing decriminalisation efforts globally. Participants attended educational field visits across a range of associated organisations and facilities such as legal brothels, health care centres, addiction prevention and rehabilitation units as well as talks by regulator and law enforcement support and advocacy agencies.


The conference served as a critical platform for advancing the human rights and dignity of sex workers, and it marked a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for justice and equality in the sex industry.

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