Victorian Greens – still failing sex workers

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Last night local Victorian sex workers protested a Victorian Greens event hosting candidates who are running for pre-selection in the electorate of Richmond.

Why would sex workers be motivated to do this?

Sex workers and sex worker organisations world-wide call for the full decriminalisation of our work, as do human rights and health organisations around the world.

Victorian Greens policy actually supports the “Decriminalisation of consensual adult sex work”, and Federal Greens policy indicates support for “An end to the criminalisation of consensual adult sex work”.
However, the Victorian Greens have repeatedly run a candidate in the seat of Richmond who opposes both the Victorian Greens and Federal Greens policy on sex work.  Kathleen Maltzahn, founder of anti-sex work organisation Project Respect, has run as the Greens candidate in Richmond in the 2010 and 2014 Victorian State Elections and is again in the running to be selected as the candidate for the upcoming election in 2018.

So, sex workers are concerned that the Victorian Greens are – yet again – seeking to run a candidate that opposes the Greens own policy on sex work, a candidate who opposes what is recognised as the best practice model for sex industry regulation.

So why are the Greens doing this?  Their own policy on the issue is clear and one would think that running a candidate who opposes that policy, who opposes the human rights of a marginalised community might be something the Greens would care about.

So, sex workers went to the event last night to ask this question.  We stood outside the event asking people entering to speak to us about the issue and offering them flyers explaining our concerns.  We even saw Kathleen Maltzahn when we first arrived (who given the long history of sex workers protesting her opposition to sex workers rights, recognised some of us from prior protests), we gave her a flyer and explained why we were there – so the Greens were aware of our presence and the reason for it almost immediately.

What was striking was the reaction of a small number of Greens members.  On realising we were there the Greens kept the building locked and posted ‘sentries’ at each entrance.  We overheard one of the people being put on ‘sentry’ duty being told by another Greens member to “watch them and make sure no one talks to them”.  The Greens member who gave this instruction came out a few minutes later and accosted me, trying to snatch the flyers I was holding from my hand, grabbing my hand (with the flyers in it) and refusing to let go for an uncomfortable length of time (literally uncomfortable, squeezing my hand as hard as possible trying to get me to drop the flyers).  The same Greens member later stood on a sex workers foot while attempting to prevent them from talking to people (although it seemed this may have been accidental).

Many people entering did take our flyers and many also stopped to talk to us about the issues.  But why did the Victorian Greens permit behaviour so hostile towards protesters?  After all we were there to ask them to select a candidate who supports their own policies – a pretty reasonable request.

Later in the evening, after the meeting had begun another group of sex workers attempted to enter the meeting to raise concerns, only to be physically assaulted by a different Greens member, who shoved one worker and threw another to the ground.

The Greens then called the police, who later showed up and rather ironically ended up taking a report from one of the assaulted workers about the Greens actions.

The Victorian Greens have previously called for people to “defend your right to protest” and opposed changes to the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill that extended police powers against protesters in Victoria.

So why is a party whose own policies support sex workers human rights, who supports the right to protest, reacting so violently when people exercise that right?  Why do the Victorian Greens object to sex workers pointing out that the Victorian Greens have in the past and may again, run a candidate who rejects part of their own policy platform?

It’s a good question and it is well beyond time for the Victorian Greens to have an answer.

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Rape and the “un-chaste” victim in Victoria

 

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On 26th March 2015 notorious rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was convicted of the rape of a sex worker.  On Wednesday 13th July 2016 the Victorian Court of Appeal quashed Bayley’s conviction, on the basis of the identification, made by the victim after seeing Bayley’s picture on FaceBook in a post relating to Jill Meagher’s murder.  Crime Victims Support Association President Noel McNamara called the decision “disgusting” and said it tells victims “they don’t get fair treatment in the courts”.

Is this really even news?  Reporting rape to police, going through the court process, is deeply unpleasant.  Name suppression should be automatic for survivors of rape – but it isn’t.  A survivor’s sexual history shouldn’t be admissible in court – but is.  Prior medical and counseling records shouldn’t be allowed as evidence – but are.

I am a current sex worker.  I have been raped.  I have never made a report to police.  In Victoria, under the licensing system, police are the regulators of sex work.  But police are not the people you reach out to for help when they regulate your work.  If we are working as street based sex workers or outside the licensing system, we can be charged for this when we report crimes committed against us.  Police continue to talk up the fact that they can “exercise discretion” over whether to charge sex workers in these cases.  Please understand, your “discretion” does not comfort us.  We need the same rights as other members of the public.  In the Adrian Bayley case alone there were at least ten other sex workers who did not trust police enough to give evidence.

In court we face being questioned about our work – judged and treated unfairly – in addition to the already traumatic questioning survivors of rape face.  When rape cases involving sex workers are reported in media, the focus will almost always be our occupation.

Even if there is a conviction, Victorian sentencing guidelines allow for judges to give lesser sentences to offenders that rape sex workers, as rape would not cause:

(the) “reaction of revulsion which it might cause in a chaste woman”

If it sounds like these guidelines date back to the turn of the century, it’s worth pointing out the cases the guidelines are based on are from 1981 (Harris) and 1991 (Harkopian) [1].

Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation) has made numerous submissions to the Victorian Government asking to have these profoundly offensive sentencing guidelines overturned – the government has yet to respond to or act on these recommendations.

Each time a sex worker receives unfair treatment at the hands of police, each case where an offender walks away unpunished, every time a rapist receives a short sentence, where victims and our community are placed on trial in the media – all are another red light to sex workers telling us we cannot get justice in Victoria.

In February this year, Vixen Collective recommended that the Victorian Government decriminalise sex work – a step that would have provided better access to police and justice – but a step that was not taken.  In doing so the government ignored not only Victorian sex workers, but the policy advice of every peer sex worker organisation in Australia, the United Nations[i], World Health Organisation[ii], Amnesty International[iii] and other organisations too numerous to mention[iv].

The Victorian justice system should do better for all survivors of rape and we should fight for it to be improved together.  But right now sex workers are shut out from even the limited justice on offer to other survivors.

It’s time for the Victorian Government to start listening to sex workers and do something about it.

 

NOTE: this opinion editorial is endorsed by Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation)

 

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WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

Listen to sex workers.  We are the experts on our lives and work.

What can you do right now?
In late 2015 the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) ran a review into ‘The Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process’.  As part of this process Vixen Collective raised the many issues sex workers face in accessing assistance from police and accessing justice in Victoria, including Victorian sentencing guidelines permitting judges to give reduced sentences to offenders that rape sex workers – guidelines that influence attitudes towards our community in the courts even when not officially applied.
NB – The Commission will report by the 1st of September 2016.
Join us in reminding the VLRC to address justice for sex workers in Victoria by:
Contacting the VLRC on twitter at – @VicLawReform
Emailing the VLRC at – law.reform@lawreform.vic.gov.au

What can you do in the future?
Sex workers peer (sex worker only) representative organisations in Australia call for the decriminalisation of sex work for sex workers health and safety, click here to see a list of peer sex worker organisations around Australia – visit their websites and follow their social media to see how to support sex workers in your local area.

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REFERENCES:

[i] The United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Development Fund and UNAIDS support the decriminalisation of sex work and note that legal empowerment of sex worker communities underpins effective HIV Responses.
‘Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific’, United Nations, 2012, pg.21-31. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/hivaids/English/HIV-2012-SexWorkAndLaw.pdf

[ii] Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.”, Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations, World Health Organisation, July 2014, pg.91.

[iii] Global movement votes to adopt policy to protect human rights of sex workers, Amnesty International, 11 August 2015.

[iv] Other organisations that support the decriminalisation of sex work include (for example):

Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)
“NSWP membership comprises 237 sex worker-led organisations in 71 countries around the globe, including local organisations as well as national and regional networks. Our regional networks in the global south and global north represent many thousands of sex workers who actively oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work.”,  ‘Why decriminalise sex work’, Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), Open Democracy, 30th July 2015, https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/global-network-of-sex-work-projects/why-decriminalise-sex-work

Australia’s National HIV Strategy
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Sixth National HIV Strategy 2010-2013, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010 at 6.4.

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
“We know from them that the decriminalisation of sex work is the only way to ensure that sex workers are able to work in safety and be protected from violence and exploitation. … Often, sex workers and their clients are best positioned to detect and report cases of human trafficking or exploitative labour situations. This can only happen in a decriminalised environment, where neither party is afraid of prosecution.”, ‘Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women – Submission to Scotland Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work’

Global Commission on HIV and the Law
“Decriminalization is the first step towards better working conditions…”, Global Commission on HIV and the Law – Risks, Rights and Health, Global Commission on HIV and the Law, July 2012, pg.40.

Human Rights Watch
‘Human Rights Watch World Report 2014’, Human Rights Watch, 2014, pg.47.

Multiple Medical Studies
For example:
“Decriminalise sex work.  Decriminalisation can improve the risk environment..  End impunity for crimes and abuses committed against sex workers.  Advance evidence-based policies and practices in partnership with SW-led organisations.  End discriminatory laws, policies and practices against female, male and transgender sex workers.  ..  Include civil society, incl SW-led organisations, in national policy planning.  Recognise sex work as work, and develop occupational health and safety standards, mechanisms to redress violence against sex workers and other violations against labour and human rights.”  Panel 4: Calls for action for stakeholders in the HIV response for sex workers, An action agenda for HIV and sex workers, The Lancet, 22nd July 2014, pg.10.
C Harcourt, J O’Connor, S Egger, C Fairly, H Wand, M Chen, L Marshall, J Kaldor, B Donovan, ‘The Decriminalisation of Prostitution is Associated with Better Coverage of Health Promotion Programs for Sex Workers’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010, 34:5 pg. 482.

Open Society Foundations
‘Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society’, Open Society Foundations, October 2015.

“Pieces of meat” & balance in journalism

On Friday the 1st of April, last week, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation) issued an invitation to sex workers and supporters to join in raising concerns over the “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference.  The conference, an event at which proponents of the criminalisation of sex work will be gathering, runs over the 9th and 10th of April (today and tomorrow).

Sex workers and supporters participating in the protest on social media since then, have been experiencing significant levels of abuse from anti sex work individuals.  This has included being called “pimps”, being told that we are “happy hookers”, that we are “meat for buyers”, “fucktoys”, that we are “commodities to be bought, sold and used”, referred to as “female flesh”, “pieces of meat”, and told that sex workers are the “pimp lobby”.

Vixen Collective itself, a sex worker only collective, made up of current and former sex workers, has been referred to as a “pro sex trade group” and “sex trade apologists” by event speaker Simone Watson.

 

Those involved in the conference have made claims of being “silenced” by sex workers, a proposition that seems ludicrous when examined – that a few sex workers on twitter could silence people who are having a conference to show case their ideas – a conference at which many of the speakers are published authors/journalists, some academics, many with significant social capital and power.

In confirmation of this fact there has been extensive coverage in the media on the conference outlining the anti sex work position, without any balance or effort to give voice to sex workers concerns.  Of the four “articles” carried in major periodicals, which could for the most piece also be characterized as opinion editorials, Vixen Collective has been contacted by none, nor has the national sex worker organisation Scarlet Alliance.

The headlines of the four pieces are as follows (they are deliberately not linked due to the offensive and triggering content):
‘Pro sex trade group Vixen Collective ramps up campaign’ (Simone Watson, Tasmanian Times, 5th April)
‘Van Badham’s freedom of speech for some? (Isla MacGregor, Tasmanian Times, 8th April)
‘I clutched the cash while he used me’: Former prostitutes on why they want the industry banned’ (Emma Reynolds, News.com, 8th April)
‘Sex Trade survivors deserve the chance to speak’ (Meagan Tyler, The Conversation, 8th April)

The first, is by Simone Watson, the current Director of pro-Swedish Model (sometimes referred to as the Nordic Model) group NorMAC, there is more information on the problems with this piece here.

The second, is by Isla MacGregor, close friend and writing partner of Simone Watson – this is an attack on feminist and Guardian columnist Van Badham for having the audacity to support sex worker rights.

The third, by Emma Reynolds, is what could kindly be referred to as an advertorial for the book ‘Prostitution Narratives’ that is being launched at the conference this weekend.  Now, let me be clear – everyone has the right to tell their story.  Being able to be heard when speaking about our lives is a critical part of what we are protesting for, but the fact that News.com ran a story without talking to anyone who wasn’t pro-criminalisation and didn’t contact a single peer sex worker organisation is a critical failure.  This is a failure not just in recognising  sex workers’ voices, but a failure in journalism.

The fourth, one is in The Conversation written by RMIT academic Meagan Tyler, colleague of Dr Caroline Norma, and also known for her work with organisation CATWA (an organisation that holds a pro-criminalisation of sex work view).  Ms Tyler includes quotes from my blog (where the original protest was posted), including that sex workers and supporters should:

“write to RMIT to express concerns about the Conference to the University Chancellor”

But then goes on to suggest that this amounts to:

“.. online tactics used to bully, intimidate and deny people a platform to speak..”

This is purposefully omitting the fact that at no time was there a call by Vixen Collective for the conference to be shut down, simply that we wished for sex workers concerns to be heard.

So what’s the up-side in a week of sex workers being called “pieces of meat” and shut out of the mainstream media?

Well, late yesterday RMIT Catalyst – the student newspaper at RMIT published an article where they spoke to both the conference organisers and Vixen Collective.  It was a moment of, for sex workers, what hopefully will be increasingly common in the future of journalism – being heard.

What traction sex workers do have in being listened to on their own lives and work in the media, shouldn’t be exceptional, it should be the standard.  It should not be an enduring battle to gain space to publish op ed’s of our own – but it is and so we express our thoughts and stories on blogs and twitter.  We’re not silencing anyone because these are so often the only places we have in which to speak.

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RMIT Slammed for Facilitating Sex Work Abolition Conference

We can only hope to see more balanced journalism in the main-stream press in the future.  Given that the above was from student journalists maybe it’s a good sign that we will.

Carrying on the tradition of making our voices heard in the spaces that are available to us, we are having a protest onsite at RMIT today, please see details below:

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Protesting the “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference – Protest Notice

*Sex Workers & Supporters*

Time: 1pm until 3pm, Saturday 9th April 2016

Location: Outside the Emily McPherson Building (Building 13, 405 Russell St, Melbourne, on the Victoria St side of the building)

**Please be aware of and prioritise your safety, anti sex work individuals/groups have been known to approach & take photographs of people at protests, so if this is problematic or distressing for you then consider if it is safe for you to be in the protest space**

Please Note – we are planning and advocating for a non-violent, non-intrusive protest.

Vixen Collective does not advocate for anyone to enter the conference space or approach conference attendees.

On social media anti sex work individuals have raised concerns about silencing, which, given that the conference contains speakers who are published authors/academics etc. is wildly out of place and unrealistic compared to sex workers raising concerns on twitter.

However, just as sex workers do not wish to be silenced, we do not wish to be perceived as silencing anyone and therefore we ask people participating in the protest to try not to become involved in verbal altercations.

We will have Vixen Collective support people there and please take the opportunity to step back and de-brief.

We have permission to be present on RMIT property and RMIT security is aware that we are having a protest and can be called on if necessary.

If the space becomes hostile due to the presence or actions of anti sex work individuals or groups we plan to exit the space and de-brief off site.

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Vixen Collective

The Sound of Silencing Sex Workers

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On Friday last week I posted a blog entry entitled ‘Join the Online Protest – “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference’ about the efforts of local peer sex worker organisation Vixen Collective to protest an anti sex work conference here in Melbourne, Australia.

Individual sex workers and sex worker allies have joined Vixen Collective in protesting online – primarily on Twitter – RMIT University’s choice play host to a conference that brings together a range of anti sex work figures, outspoken in their support of either the Swedish Model of sex work criminalisation (sometimes called the Nordic Model) or of outright abolition of sex work.

It’s always interesting to see what reaction there will be online to a protest by sex workers.  Interesting, but often predictable.

Anti sex work groups have a tendency to claim that they themselves are being “silenced” when sex workers speak out for our human rights.

Since the protest started, a member of local pro-Swedish Model organisation NorMAC, Simone Watson, who once likened sex workers to “meat” has published an opinion piece in the Tasmanian Times where Vixen Collective, an unfunded peer sex worker organisation is referred to as a “pro sex trade group”.

Simone Watson, also in the Tasmanian Times, makes the claim that I personally have “launched an online campaign to discredit the voices of prostitution Survivors”.  Given that I have done no such thing, as is demonstrable from reading the actual post – I would suggest that Ms Watson retract her defamatory statement.

In comments on Twitter by anti sex work folk, I noticed just this morning, the standard refrain that their side is being “silenced” by sex workers.

Of the listed speakers for the conference – Julie Bindel, Rachel Moran, Dr Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist – all are published authors, at least one has tenure at a University, and all make regular appearances as public speakers on the subject of the criminalisation of sex work – of which it is to be expected, that some appearances are paid.

These are not people who are silent.  These are not people who are lacking in a platform.  To suggest that an online protest by individual sex workers, an unfunded peer sex worker organisation, and sex worker allies – is in any way “silencing” people with this degree of power, social capital, and continuing access to a variety of platforms is absurd.

But it is a useful tool in continuing to silence sex workers, which really is the point of the exercise isn’t it, when your end goal is abolishing sex work?

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Want to join the protest?

Take action online:

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

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Looking for info when arguing with anti’s or debunking their arguments?  Check out ‘A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online’

 

Join the Online Protest! – “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference

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On the 9th and 10th of April 2016 an anti sex work conference called the “World’s Oldest Oppression” is being held in Melbourne, Australia.  Hosted by RMIT University, and billed as a “2 Day Anti Sex Trade Conference” for a “World Free of Sex Trade Abuse”.

The conference brings together anti sex work figures such as Julie Bindel, Rachel Moran, Dr Caroline Norma, Melinda Tankard Reist and others.

Despite the fact that sex workers, sex worker’s representative organisations around the world, human rights organisations and allies all call for the full decriminalisation of sex work for sex workers’ health and safety – anti sex work groups (such as those represented at this conference) continue to call for the criminalisation of our work, and attempt to silence our voices.

Join sex workers in protesting!

**Thinking of joining the online campaign?  Do you have an anonymous Twitter/Facebook/Email account?  Please consider your safety/anonymity in your protest activities**

 

Write to RMIT:

You can write to RMIT to express concerns about the Conference to the University Chancellor, Ziggy Switkowski at:

Email – chancellor@rmit.edu.au
& Email to ombuds@rmit.edu.au as well

 

Take action online:

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

 

Promote the online protest!

  • Talk to other people you know that support sex worker rights and encourage them to participate
  • Spread the word on social media – Twitter, Facebook, everywhere – let people know to join the online protest
  • Post the ‘Join In Online Protest’ flyer in your workplace

 

Will there be action/protest happening in Melbourne during the conference?

This is yet to be decided – watch the social media spaces of Vixen Collective to be kept up to date:

Twitter: @VixenCollective

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/32794381768/

 

Looking for info when arguing with anti’s or debunking their arguments?  Check out ‘A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online’

To download the ‘Join In Online Protest’ flyer, click here > WOO_GeneralFlyer

A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online

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Finding the internet a hateful place?  Sick of being attacked by anti’s online, or just looking for an antidote to all the lies?

Look below for information to help recharge or re-engage.

 

Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work – for Sex Workers Health and Safety!

10 Reasons to Decriminalise Sex Work (Open Society)

Sex Work and the Law – the Case for Decriminalization (Desiree Alliance)

Decriminalisation of Sex Work – The Evidence Is In (HIV Australia)

The sexual health of sex workers: no bad whores, just bad laws (Ally Daniel, Social Research Briefs)

Decriminalising Sex Work Would Cut HIV Infections By A Third (Imperial College London)

 

The Swedish Model of Sex Work Regulation Harms Sex Workers

‘We Want to Save You – & If You Don’t Appreciate It You Will Be Punished’ (SWAN Network – Youtube)

The ‘Nordic model’ of prostitution law is a myth (The Conversation)

Swedish Model – A Failure (BAYSWAN)

The Problem With the “Swedish Model” for Sex Work Laws (New Republic)

Nordic Model of Prostitution ‘Makes Sex Workers More Vulnerable to Violence and STDs’ (IBT)

Advocacy Toolkit – The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers (NSWP)

Resistance to the Swedish model through LGBTQ and sex work community collaboration and online intervention (Nicklas Dennermalm, Digital Culture & Education)

Göran Lindberg and Sweden’s dark side (The Guardian)

 

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Bad Science, Lies and Other Anti Sex Work Rhetoric

A Load of Farley (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

Remembering Judge Himel: Bold assertions and inflammatory language not useful to the court (Laura Agustin, The Naked Anthropologist)

The Sex Trade: Lies, the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ and Other Silencing Tactics (Ruth Jacobs, Huffington Post)

Is One of the Most-Cited Statistics About Sex Work Wrong (Chris Hall, The Atlantic)

The War on Sex Workers (Melissa Gira Grant, Reason.com)

There is more to the prostitution debate than privileged sex workers and silent, abused victims (Abi Wilkinson, International Business Times)

Inside the Sensational Business of “Rescuing” Sex Workers (Mike Ludwig, Truth Out)

From aborton to sex work, why the state shouldn’t control women’s bodies (Frankie Mullin, New Statesman)

Rehashing Tired Claims About Prostitution – A Response to Farley and Raphael and Shapiro (Ronald Weitzer)

Amazingly Stupid Statements (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

 

Diversity of Sex Worker Community and Activism

All sex workers have the right to speak out about their lives and work – but the myth of the “privileged few” not only silences sex workers, it obscures the voices of sex workers of colour, those outside the West and the most marginalised in our communities.

Black Sex Workers’ Lives Matter: Appropriation of Black Suffering (Robyn Maynard, Truth-Out)

Why VAMP Supports Decriminalisation of Sex Work (Meena Saraswathi Seshu and Aarthi Pai, Feminist India)

Meet the Thai Sex Workers Fighting for Their Right to Earn a Living (Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, VICE)

South Africa: Coalition Launched to Decriminalise Sex Work (Ashleigh Furlong, All Africa)

What the Rentboy Raid Tells Us About the Gendered Rhetoric of Trafficking (Morgan M Page, Tits & Sass)

Why Cambodia’s sex workers don’t need to be saved (Patrick Winn, Global Post)

The creative protests of sex workers in Argentina (Georgina Orellano, Open Democracy)

Dear Justice Minister, Let’s Discuss The Concerns Of Sex Workers (Naomi Sayers, Huffington Post)

An open letter to Tom Meagher, from St Kilda street-based sex workers (Feminist Ire)

 

Who Are These People?

*NOTE – particular effort has been taken to find pieces written by sex workers, allies or general media about these people rather than referencing their actual work

Cathy Brennan – Outing, platforms, harassment and privilege (Jem, The F Word)

Caroline Norma – Make room for sex workers in the sisterhood … and don’t forget men (Anthony Smith, The Conversation)

Melinda Tankard Reist – “Gaping Arseholes” And “20-Foot Schlongs”: Australia Debated Porn Last Night And It Was Magnificent (Meg Watson, Junkee)

Rachel Moran – Played Out (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

Sheila Jeffreys – Leading feminist launches bizarre ‘racist’ attack on trans community (Star Observer)

 

And now… some humour…

Just Don’t Call It Slut Shaming: A Feminist Guide to Silencing Sex Workers (Feminist Ire)

Hanging Out In the Pimp Lobby (Sometimes It’s Just a Cigar)

Everything You Need to Know About the Pimp Lobby (Charlotte Shane)

 

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Organisations that Support the Decriminalisation of Sex Work

Amnesty International – Sex Workers’ Rights Are Human Rights

United Nations (UN) – Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific (pg.21-31)

World Health Organisation (WHO) – Consolidated Guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations (pg.90-91)

Human Rights Watch – Human Rights Watch: World Report 2014 (pg.47)

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) – Submission to Scottish Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work in Scotland

Open Society Foundations (OSF) – Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (pg.40)

Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) – Why Decriminalise Sex Work?

Vixen Collective in alliance with Sex Worker Organisations in Australia – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work!

* Only one reference has been provided for each organisation, when many are available and note that this list is (obviously) not intended to be an exhaustive list of references.

 

Have a reference or link you think needs to be on this list?
Either comment on this post or contact me on Twitter at @sexliesducttape

Guide to Making a Submission to the Draft ‘Sex Work Regulations 2016’

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What’s a Submission?

A submission can be as simple as a letter on how you feel about the way you work as a Victorian sex worker:

  • How do you feel about mandatory testing for STIs/HIV every three months?
  • Are you a Private Worker who feels the current restrictions on in-calls are too harsh?
  • Do you feel you have less ability to go to the police if you need to as a sex worker in Victoria?
  • Are you concerned that registering with the CAV/BLA will subject you to future discrimination?
  • Are you a street based sex worker affected by current policing operations?
  • Have you been affected by stigma and/or discrimination as a sex worker?
  • Do you work in a brothel and feel you are subject to working conditions that you cannot organise to change, like other workers would be able to do (through unions, by accessing the Workplace Ombudsman, or WorkSafe)?
  • Is there a way that you would prefer to work? Many sex workers indicate sex work decriminalisation, the system currently in place in New South Wales as their preference – do you feel this way?

A submission doesn’t have to be longer than a few paragraphs and it doesn’t have to be a technical document.
It’s often the case that government receive many form letters to submission processes, writing something in your own words, about your own experience can be very powerful.

What has changed between the Draft ‘Sex Work Regulations 2016’ and the previous regulations?

Very little. The most significant changes are:

  • Full body shots, photographs in advertising will no longer be restricted to head and shoulders only – but only on the internet.
    There are restrictions on these, as advertising cannot contain representations of: “..the bare sexual organs, buttocks or anus of a person, or frontal nudity of the genital region; or bare breasts; or a sexual act or simulated sexual act; or a person under the age of 18 years..”
  • Advertisements may now contain references to race, colour or ethnic origin.

You can see the full listing of changes at – Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation – Consumer Affairs Victoria
**NOTE – SUBMISSION DEADLINE NOW EXTENDED TO 5:00PM, FRIDAY 4th MARCH**

Sending Your Submission to Consumer Affairs Victoria

There are a number of methods of sending your submission in:

  • Email your submission directly to the CAV via – cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au
  • Post your submission directly to the CAV via –
    Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation
    Policy and Legislation Branch
    Consumer Affairs Victoria
    GPO Box 123
    Melbourne VIC 3001

NB – For anyone who wishes to list a return contact email or postal address other than their own please feel free to list Vixen Collective’s email and/or postal address:
Email address – vixencollectivemelbourne@gmail.com or, Postal address –
Vixen Collective
Melbourne Flinders Lane
PO Box 525
Flinders Lane, VIC 8009

Other References

Wanting other information on Victorian legislation/regulations or reference material? Check the list below and hopefully you will find a helpful link:

Information on Legislation/Regulations
Scarlet Alliance: Sex Industry Law – Victoria

General Articles
The Sexual Health of Sex Workers: no bad whores, just bad laws
Sex Work Legislation Stands in the Way of Australia’s Commitments

Academic Articles
Mandatory Testing for HIV and Sexually Transmissible Infections among Sex Workers in Australia: A Barrier to HIV and STI Prevention
Improving the health of sex workers in NSW: maintaining success

Other
Sex Workers Stand In Solidarity in Calling for the Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work! – Media Release
The Principles for Model Sex Work Legislation

 

If you have questions on the submission process, contact Consumer Affairs on cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au

 

TO DOWNLOAD THIS GUIDE AS A PDF DOCUMENT, CLICK HERE – VSG_ISW-DSWR2016

 

Have any feedback on this guide?  Contact Vixen Collective on Twitter at @VixenCollective or visit our website for more information at vixencollective.blogspot.com.au

See below for examples of submissions…

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Example of a Submission by a Victorian Sex Worker

 

Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation
Policy and Legislation Branch
Consumer Affairs Victoria
GPO Box 123
Melbourne VIC 3001
Email: cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au

 

27th February 2016

To whom it may concern,

My name is Nell and I am a brothel based sex worker in Melbourne.

The Victorian licensing system makes it incredibly difficult for both my work and personal life. I’ve described a few of these here.

Mandatory testing is a perpetual reminder that the government views me as “dirty” and a threat to public health. I am treated as though I do not know how to care for my health, like I can’t make decisions about my own body. I am perfectly aware of the risks of STIs, just like other sex workers and we get tested without needing to be told. We are not ticking time bombs of infection and disease. This policy is a blatant attack on our bodily autonomy and basic human dignity.

Within the licensing system, police are not my protectors, but are instead monitor my very existence. This is expressed in legislation, but also in police behaviour. If I am subject to a crime, violent or otherwise, at work or not – going to police for assistance isn’t even remotely an option. The threat of being outed, discrimination, interpersonal violence, and just generally horrific treatment by people as a result. This means that I turn to my peers, other sex workers and community for support, because reporting to the police is not an option.

Stigma is a harm so major and all-encompassing that it is a challenge to explain its damage in only a few words. People’s perceptions of sex work as a social evil, or of sex workers as victims, mean they can become abusive or abandon us when we are outed. My relationships with family and friends were so severely damaged by their discovery of my work, that I’ve been forced to completely reshape and rebuild my life. Other sex workers have supported me, but many of my family and friends have subjected me to emotional abuse and threats. The licensing systems perpetuates this stigma.

Decriminalisation, along with a commitment to alleviate stigma (through media, education, and so on) will make an enormous difference in our lives. We deserve to be heard, to be listened to, to be the decision makers on issues relating to us.

Yours sincerely,

Nell.

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Example of a Submission by an Inter-State Sex Worker

 

Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation
Policy and Legislation Branch
Consumer Affairs Victoria
GPO Box 123
Melbourne VIC 3001
Email: cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au

 

27th February 2016

To whom it may concern,

I am a sex worker from NSW, I am writing because having worked in Sydney under decriminalisation I know that this is a system that supports my health and safety.

 

Under decriminalisation of sex work in NSW:

 

  • I do not have to register my name with the government like private workers do in Victoria, creating opportunities for discrimination later in life.
  • I am not subject to mandatory STI/HIV testing because, like sex workers everywhere across Australia, I maintain my sexual health as part of my work – and, as studies show sex workers have sexual health at least as good or better than the general population.
  • If someone threatens me or is violent to me when I am working, I can go to the police more easily than a Victorian sex worker. Because the police do not regulate the sex industry in NSW, I can get assistance from the police like any other person in the community.
  • I have the ability to choose between a variety of different ways of working, and do what suits me best. If I want to work privately in an environment I control – which is best for my safety – then I can do this.
  • Although as a sex worker I am still subject to stigma and discrimination, I am supported by sex worker community through a funded state based peer sex worker organisations – SWOP NSW.

 

Victorian sex workers should have access to the same rights and opportunities that NSW sex workers do.

 

The Victorian Government needs to end mandatory testing of STIs/HIV, the registration of sex workers, remove the police as regulators of the sex industry in Victoria, and most importantly fully decriminalise sex work in Victoria.

 

Yours sincerely,

Alice West

Victorian Greens promote hate speech at LGBTIQ Event

Photo by Difficult Debby

Photo by Difficult Debby

On Thursday night this week sex workers, including queer sex workers, arrived to protest a Greens LGBTIQ event where Greens candidate for Richmond Kathleen Maltzahn was speaking.  ‘Out and About: Rainbow Tales from the Green streets’, a “fabulous evening of story-slamming, music and politics” held in Fitzroy, included attendance by political figures such as Senator Janet Rice, Sue Pennicuik MLC and Sean Mulcahy, Greens Candidate for Bentleigh.

Kathleen Maltzahn, founder of Project Respect a rescue organisation that has called for the “re-criminalisation of the sex industry”, and someone who has been described in The Australian as intending to “take the regulated prostitution industry and make it illegal again, as it was in the 1950s” has a history of problematic speech on sex work, specifically her position on the Swedish Model.

The Swedish Model, basically criminalisation of sex work by another name, has pushed sex workers underground in Sweden, increased harassment of workers (as well as a raft of other problems) and been completely ineffective in it’s stated goal – reducing the size of the industry.  It is predicated on the idea that all sex work is inherently violent and non consensual, erases the lives of male and trans* workers, and denies sex worker’s bodily autonomy and agency.

Unsurprisingly there was much discussion in sex worker community when the Victorian Greens again pre-selected Kathleen Maltzahn for the seat of Richmond in Victoria.  Federal Greens policy specifies that “An end to the criminalisation of consensual adult sex work” is required – if The Greens who so often stand on the moral high ground and point out the inconsistencies of other parties/candidates positions feel this is okay one wonders what next?

And let’s be clear here, Kathleen Maltzahn would, under the Swedish Model (as it is implemented in Sweden):

Remove my right to work safely in a range of workplaces by criminalising my clients, pushing the industry underground
If I work with another worker make it possible to charge us both with pimping each other
Make it illegal to provide accommodation to me as a sex worker (potentially leading to homelessness)
– Make it so than I cannot as a sex worker advertise my services
Criminalise everyone around me, so my partner or any adult children/relatives can be charged with ‘living off the earnings’ of sex work
– Make it so that I cannot hire drivers, receptionists or security
– Increase police involvement in my work and life, increase police corruption and lower my access to assistance when a victim of crime and to justice

This is all is the name of ‘saving me’.  This is not ‘saving me’.  This is executing a moral agenda against my community – to remove my right to work safely, suppress my human rights and silence my voice.

Victorian sex workers attending Thursday nights event were not silent.  Although interestingly The Greens, a party with a history of protest themselves, instructed sex workers attending that they could not speak.  I was filled in on the activities at the protest by sex workers who were there (as I was out of Melbourne), only to hear that an organiser for The Greens had told the protesters (who had permission from the venue to be there):

“..we’re not going to allow for this to happen .. not going to allow you to speak .. you can hand out your stuff and go ..”

Despite this attempt at silencing dissent, several sex workers stood from the audience and spoke briefly at the start.  Workers rose and turned their backs when Kathleen Maltzahn was speaking (an action that has happened before in protest at Maltzahns’ hate speech).  Flyers were handed out to the crowd outlining the harms of the Swedish Model and detailing the preferred regulatory model for sex workers health and safety – decriminalisation – which removes criminal sanctions from the sex industry so that sex work is treated like any other work.  Workers also stayed for some time outside the venue and talked to members of the departing audience about sex worker rights and the harms the Swedish Model would introduce to our lives.

So what do we learn from this?  That The Greens are currently the party that would prefer for us to sit down, shut up or go away?  That it is alright to suppress the voices of marginalised people if they don’t align with your election platform?  Or maybe it’s that if the organisation you founded and the books you write make money off of sex workers and their work – it still doesn’t mean you have to listen to them?

As I have said before – arguments that deny sex workers human rights are NOT a difference of opinion, they are NOT a debate or an intellectual exercise, these arguments are about our LIVES and our ability to live them freely and safely – those that oppose our right to do so are engaging in WHOREPHOBIA, they are engaging in HATE SPEECH.

Please do not aid them in doing so.  If you are a voter in the seat of Richmond in Victoria – do not cast a vote for the Greens.  Pick another candidate – here’s the options:

Richmond Election Guide

If you want to tell the Victorian Greens what you think of their support of a candidate who actively silences marginalised people and endorses the Swedish Model which harms sex workers, then please do so here:

Victorian Greens on Twitter – @VictorianGreens

Victorian Greens on FaceBook

Contact the Victorian Greens on – office@vic.greens.org.au – or contact your local member of The Greens.

If you would like to feed back to Kathleen Maltzahn directly, do so here:

Kathleen Maltzahn on Twitter – @KPMaltzahn

Kathleen Maltzahn on FaceBook

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UPDATE: Jane Gilmore has since covered this issue for the ABC, 11th Nov 2014 – Greens should take their sex work principles seriously

Sex Workers speak out despite exclusion at Festival of Dangerous Ideas

FODI_Protest01

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas’ scheduled line up of anti sex work speakers at the ‘Women for Sale’ panel yesterday was upstaged when a sex worker took the the place of one of the panelists, making it known that sex workers will not be silenced or excluded from discussions about their lives and work.

Panelist Elizabeth Pisani gave up her seat on the panel so that Jules Kim, sex worker and Acting CEO of Scarlet Allliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) could take to the stage and confront the whorephobic and abolitionist agenda of the discussion taking place.

Festival of Dangerous Ideas has this year provided a platform for anti sex work speakers (refer Sex Worker rights an idea too dangerous for Festival of Dangerous Ideas), people whose personal politics, desire to sell books and increase their social capital have lead to them promoting the Nordic or Swedish Model, a form of sex work abolition that would see sex workers right to work safely, access assistance in cases of violence & access justice greatly diminished.

Sex workers around the world call for Decriminalisation as the best practice regulatory model for sex workers health and safety, in June 2014 in Melbourne at the International Conference AIDS 2014, sex workers joined medical researchers and policy experts in calling for decriminalisation to combat both HIV and violence against sex workersLancet report: Support sex workers to prevent HIV.

Festival-of-Dangerous-Ideas-Opera-House-Zahra-Stardust001

Zahra Stardust, sex worker, (pictured above), who came to protest had the following to say about #FODI (Festival of Dangerous Ideas) and their treatment of sex workers:

“The most disturbing aspect about the Women for Sale panel was the presentation of ideas that have been globally and scientifically proven as putting sex workers at real risk (indeed, danger) being positioned as polite, reasonable and interesting debate. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas exemplifies the total failure of ‘human rights’ and ‘progressive’ organisations to recognise oppression at its most obvious, and instead to engage in it frivolously and without accountability as something that is fashionable and will earn them ‘feminist’ credibility. This Festival of Dangerous Ideology uses sex work to sell out a session, then promotes the criminalisation of the people it seeks to protect.”

(Quoted with permission, Zahra Stardust, www.zahrastardust.com@ZahraStardust)

#FODI when approached back in June, had made their attitude of exclusion clear, refusing to allow sex workers access to speak about their own human rights, about their own lives.  This attitude of silencing a marginalised group became even worse on the day.

IMG_0723FODI_WFS_Panel001

Co-Founder and Co-Curator of the Festival Simon Longstaff remarked to the Guardian that “In my opinion what needed to be represented was a broad spectrum of opinion, which included the opinions of sex workers in Elizabeth Pisani who was able to articulate the opinions that sex workers hold..”.

#FODI defines a “broad spectrum” of opinion as not including any members of the marginalised group being spoken about, satisfied with selecting a non sex worker to “articulate” sex workers opinions.  #FODI were then upset when that person, Elizabeth Pisani, turned out to have better ethics than St James Ethics centre and #FODI, and gave their seat to a sex worker to speak out about sex workers own lives.

In the Guardian story Three sex workers stage protest at Festival of Dangerous Ideas Longstaff also goes on to say that “One of the conscious designs of the festival is that … there is opportunity for people to contribute in the Q&A..”, but although half an hour of Q&A had been advertised it was cut to approximately five minutes , two questions asked, a sex worker present being told she was not permitted to contribute a question because she knew a panelist.

As Zahra Stardust remarks:

“Guess what? Sex workers actually have expertise on these issues. We live them every day. But we are not being paid to speak at the Opera House. We are here because what is entertainment for you actually affects our lives. A seat at your table is the bare minimum sex workers deserve. If you came and sat on our table, you might recognise that police and NGOs are not our protectors. You might realise that no-one is standing up for our rights except us. At least this was not lost on the security guard who came up to me smiling after the panel to say my question was fantastic and he wished sex workers had more time to talk.

(Quoted with permission, Zahra Stardust, www.zahrastardust.com, @ZahraStardust)

The use of sex workers lives as a titillating topic to draw crowds and attention isn’t new – we see this frequently in media and the arts – what must always be challenged is any attempt to exclude sex workers from discussions about their own lives and human rights.  Discussions of sex workers as having “false consciousness” are simply another method of excluding the voices of marginalised people.  Attempts to identify sex workers as responsible for violence against all women as well as violence within sex work are simply methods of ‘victim blaming’.  Violence in sex work, like violence in society at large, will only be ended by addressing the perpetrators and systemic causes of that violence – such as criminalisation of sex work, stigma and discrimination against sex workers – not by eliminating sex workers right to work.

Sex work is work.  Most importantly, as always, listen to sex workers – sex workers are the experts on our lives.

FODI-Festival-of-Dangerous-IdeasFlyer001FODI-Festival-of-Dangerous-IdeasFlyer002

Still to come?  Panelists from ‘Women for Sale’ Lydia Cacho (author of ‘Slavery Inc’), Kajsa Ekis Ekman (author of ‘Being Bought and Being Sold’) and Alissa Nutting (author of ‘Unclean Jobs for Woman and Girls’) are on Q&A on the ABC tonight…

Guess what?  No sex worker has been asked or allowed to participate in the Q&A program.

Want to ask why Q&A doesn’t consider it relevant to have sex workers included, speaking about their own lives and rights, on a panel which includes speakers promoting an agenda that risks sex workers health and safety?  Submit a question here: Q&A ‘Ask A Question’

Hold @QandA accountable for not having a sex worker on their panel tonight:  Use twitter #QandA

Q&A are also promoting tonight’s show on Facebook at: Q&A on Facebook

Festival-of-Dangerous-Ideas-Zahra-Cam-Jules-Harbour-Bridge

Sex workers protesting at #FODI – Jules Kim (Acting CEO of Scarlet Alliance), Zahra Stardust & Cam Cox

Sex worker rights – an idea too dangerous for Festival of Dangerous Ideas

realwork01_web

The annual ‘Festival of Dangerous Ideas’ presented this year by Sydney Opera House and St James Ethics Centre opens on Saturday the 30th of August.  FODI (Festival of Dangerous Ideas) is billed as:

“..leading thinkers and culture creators from around the world will take to the stage to bring contentious ideas to the fore and challenge mainstream thought and opinion..”

The St James Ethics Centre, which heavily promotes FODI on its website, identifies itself as an:

“.. independent not-for-profit organisation that provides an open forum for the promotion and exploration of ethical questions..”

So lets look at the coverage of sex workers in FODI and see how challenging and open it really is?

 

We’ll start with ‘Women for Sale’ a FODI panel on 31st August:

Women, and their bodies, are for sale… Throughout the world, women and children are trafficked and traded as workers in the multi-billion-dollar sex industry, and their bodies are bought by ‘consumers’ everywhere. .. Pornography, IVF, surrogacy and prostitution are very different things, but all put women and their bodies on the market.”  (quoted from ‘Women for Sale’, FODI website).

As a sex worker I sell my services and not my body – yes, just checked, it’s still here with me – so language like this is actually incredibly offensive.

The panelists for this include Lydia Cacho (author of ‘Slavery Inc’), Kajsa Ekis Ekman (author of ‘Being Bought and Being Sold’), Alissa Nutting (author of ‘Unclean Jobs for Woman and Girls) and Elizabeth Pisani (author of ‘Indonesia Etc’ and another book perhaps relevant but not listed on the website – ‘The Wisdom of Whores’).

The panel itself begins from a mainstream premise – that of sex worker as a victim without agency – the position that is carried prevalently by the media, that impacts heavily on the stigma and discrimination that sex workers live with daily.  This is then being argued by people in a position of privilege – by academics and journalists – who make their living recycling and promoting this agenda, on the backs of sex workers, without allowing sex workers access to the discussion.

No sex workers are included on this panel, despite local organisations being available and the national sex worker organisation Scarlet Alliance having its base in Sydney.

 

But wait there’s more – ‘Slavery Is Big Business’ is a talk by Lydia Cacho (one of the panelists from FODI’s ‘Women for Sale’) on Sunday the 31st of August:

“..slavery is often seen as a dark part of the colonial past .. it remains alive and well—and is growing dramatically. Impervious to recession, it forms a thriving part of the globalised sex industry run by organised crime. International trafficking of women and children for sex is a multi-billion dollar business that won’t be anywhere near ‘abolition’ until those who make money from its operations and buy its services think again about what being complicit in slavery means..”

Conflating sex work and trafficking is a significant part of the abolitionist agenda.  This is done as a way to silence sex workers and prevent them from leading discussions about our own lives and human rights – and sex workers should be leading these discussions – not in the back of the room watching while non sex workers discuss whether or not we should access our human rights, or whether sex workers should have a right to health and safety in their work.

 

But still there’s more – ‘Surrogacy is Child Trafficking’ a talk by Kajsa Ekis Ekman (another one of the panelists from FODI’s ‘Women for Sale’) on Saturday 30th August:

“..Surrogacy—or contract pregnancy—has become a global industry, growing at unprecedented speed.. Whereas the sex industry is increasingly targeted by legislators as exploitation, the surrogacy industry retains a rosy image. Helping an infertile couple to have a baby of their own is seen as a generous and compassionate gesture from a woman who can help: a sign of female empowerment and free will.. But is it? At a closer glance, the surrogacy industry has more to do with prostitution than we might think. Not only is it exploitation of women’s bodies—in fact surrogacy is nothing but baby trade..”

While there are parts of the world where “the sex industry is increasingly targeted by legislators as exploitation”, specifically countries enacting the Swedish or Nordic Model – this has had terrible outcomes for sex workers, as we see here by listening to Swedish sex worker, Pye Jacobson:

 

Sex workers regularly state that “sex work is work”, sex workers call for sex workers human rights and labour rights to be recognised.  At AIDS 2014 sex workers and allies released many important statements calling on legislators to recognise decriminalisation as the key strategy for sex workers health and safety, and as an essential part of “eventual control of the pandemic”.

Lancet report: Support sex workers to prevent HIV

 

 

MPs commit to rights-based reform to tackle AIDS – AFPPD

 

And yet there is still more FODI has to throw at us:

Pussy Riot/Zona Prava in Conversation In Conversation With Masha Gessen

So what’s up with Pussy Riot?  Aren’t they those cool punks with colourful balaclavas that held a concert in a church and pissed off Putin?  Well yes.  They’re also members of FEMEN and here’s FEMENs policy on sex work:

“..to ideologically undermine the fundamental institutes of patriarchy – dictatorship, sex-industry, and church – by putting these institutes through subversive trolling to force them to strategic surrender.. to promote new revolutionary female sexuality as opposed to the patriarchal erotic and pornography..” (quoted from FEMEN website, femen.org/about)

 

So this is what FODI has come up with in a festival that purports to challenge mainstream ideas and that is co-sponsored by St James Ethics Centre that prides itself as being an “open forum for the promotion and exploration of ethical questions“: four events run by and – excepting perhaps one* – composed entirely of anti-sex work speakers.

For FODI – Apparently allowing sex workers – the actual marginalised group in question – to speak on sex work, about their own lives and human rights – IS JUST TOO DANGEROUS AN IDEA.

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Want to tell Festival of Dangerous Ideas and St James Ethics Centre what you think?

Festival of Dangerous Ideas is using #FODI on Twitter, include this as well as #rightsnotrescue in your tweets to hold FODI responsible for their actions

FODI are on Twitter at @IdeasattheHouse

FODI are on Facebook as Ideas at the House – Facebook

St James Ethics Centre are on Twitter at @stjamesethics

 

Updates provided when available, as usual…

 

*NB – Elizabeth Pisani’s position isn’t clear in this, although the fact that she’s participating in the panel without having asked why a representative for sex workers isn’t present is a concern.