The call comes as the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015 is currently before a select committee of the Legislative Council.
“Despite moral teachings urging against righteous judgment, sex work is criminalised for no reason other than a fallacious attempt to reflect public morality and conscience,” David Caruso, president of the Law Society, wrote
in an opinion piece published by The Advertiser
He said the attempt it fallacious because any government that pushes to legislate morality, is cowering to what they view is the majority conscience.
Saying that prostitution continues to be criminalised in South Australia in a discursive and illogical manner, Caruso argues that the government should be facilitating liberalism and different values rather than a select few if it really wanted to reflect the social conscience.
Criminalisation leads to workers being more vulnerable since they would be less likely to contact authorities if a client is inappropriate or aggressive, he also noted.
Furthermore, continued criminalisation robs authorities of information about other matters associated to sex work like immigration issues, serious and organised crime or money laundering he said.
Ultimately, criminalisation marginalises workers and leaves them trapped in an industry that’s hard to plan for to escape.
Sex work won’t surge if it is decriminalised, Caruso added.
“The evidence from countries that have decriminalised sex work, such as New Zealand, is that decriminalisation does not increase the instances of work, but it does improve the health and safety of workers and it better enables them to leave the industry if they choose to do so,” he wrote.
If the Bill passes, it will wipe past sex work convictions and will invalidate laws that prohibit living off proceeds of prostitution.
According to The Advertiser
, there may be about 2,000 sex workers in South Australia but most work in brothels or privately rather than on the streets.
Michelle Lensink, the Opposition's spokeswoman for the Status of Women, told ABC
that there are safety issues for people who work in the sex industry which is mostly women.
“The workers don't have a great relationship with the police and if they happen to be a victim of an assault or theft, they don't feel like they have the sort of relationship where they can talk to the police,” she said.
“As members of parliament I think we're required to make laws which are there for the best interests of our citizens, not to say, 'that is a practice that I agree with' or not.”
Family First MLC Dennis Hood whose party opposes the move to decriminalise sex work belied claims decriminalisation doesn’t lead to an increase in sex work.
He also challenged supporters of the Bill to name one practical aspect of people’s lives that will be improved if the Bill passes.
Hood also said that the “cold hard truth is [sex work] is not something that people want to get involved in.”
“I'm yet to have anyone say they want their daughter to be a prostitute,” he told ABC
The Law Society of South Australia is pushing for the decriminalisation of sex work saying it will not lead to a surge in sex workers but will ultimately protect those in the trade and their clients.