However, more than 50 delegates from Africa, Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe have expressed dismay at the NSW government’s proposal to remove decriminalisation of sex work through a review process.
“NSW is an example to the world,” said Duduzile Dlamini, a sex worker activist from the Sisonke Movement in South Africa.
“We came to NSW to experience decriminalisation, something we are calling for in our country.”
The English Collective of Prostitutes echoed the call for the NSW government to maintain decriminalisation, saying it has been campaigning for similar laws in the UK since 1975.
Decriminalisation means the removal of criminal laws, including police regulation of sex work. Sex work is then regulated like any other business.
The conference has been organised by Australian sex worker organisation the Scarlet Alliance, which says decriminalisation is necessary to prevent abuses.
“Decriminalisation has delivered successful health outcomes and removed corruption from the sex industry in NSW,” said Janelle Fawkes, CEO of Scarlet Alliance.
“But the Liberal government are proposing a return to the bad old days.”
The Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) has apologised to the international visitors, who have come to Australia looking to pick up tips on best practice.
“It is a great shame that delegates have travelled from 11 countries hoping to learn from the great gains of decriminalisation in the NSW sex industry, and to have to tell them the government are talking about taking decriminalisation away,” said Kylie Tattersall, Executive Director of SWOP NSW.
Currently the only jurisdictions with decriminalised sex work are New Zealand and NSW.