Ugly Mugs: confidential accounts of rape and violence should never be ‘entertainment’

The following is an opinion editorial endorsed by both Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) and Vixen Collective (Victorian Peer Only Sex Workers Organisation).

rightsnotrescue2

Imagine this: after being raped you tell your story, in confidence, to a local organisation so that it can be collected with others and in a closed publication circulated to help prevent offenders re-victimising others.  This publication is ‘closed’ because were it generally available, predators would recognise themselves in it’s pages and be able to change their appearance and behaviours, going on to commit further crimes with greater ease.

Now imagine this: without your consent the account of your rape and those of other survivors are taken by someone who is not a member of your community, disclosed and used as thinly veiled “inspiration” for a play, while actual accounts are read out mid-scene.  A play with the same title as the closed publication meant to protect your community.  This is your rape played out on stage.  Permission not sought, nor considered relevant.

Welcome to ‘Ugly Mugs’.  The play by Peta Brady recently having finished a run at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and opening at Sydney’s Griffin on July 18th 2014.  Based on confidential accounts of assaults (rape, violence or trauma) given by sex workers for inclusion in the ‘Ugly Mugs’ publication (closed, for distribution only to sex workers), this represents both a breach of trust and an alarming low point in exploitation of sex workers through “pity porn”.  “Pity porn” is the depiction of sex workers as helpless victims without agency – a far cry from the reality of organised and motivated workers.  The ‘Ugly Mugs’ publication was established in Victoria by sex workers (Prostitutes Collective of Victoria, 1986) seeking to protect their own community in the face of barriers to justice and ongoing stigma against sex workers.

Concerns were promptly raised with both hosts of the play – Malthouse Theatre and Griffin – neither were willing to accept sex workers concerns.  Instead we were offered free tickets by Malthouse – presumably because seeing your rape played out live in front of you always makes you feel better.  Griffin asked if they could have a copy of the current ‘Ugly Mugs’ book for publicity purposes – because disclosing further accounts of rape and trauma would be great for drawing in a crowd – if less so for the health, safety and peace of mind of sex workers.

Peta Brady is quoted in publicity as saying “working girls” provided feedback on ‘Ugly Mugs’, however sex workers that did attend The Malthouse reported back that the play includes readings from an actual issue of ‘Ugly Mugs’ – a shocking breach of trust to both the community and individual sex workers.  It also opens with a sex worker attending her own autopsy, as both corpse and bystander, setting a low point from which there are reportedly still further lows.  This is what can be expected when an outsider seeks to speak on behalf of a marginalised community – you get an agenda (because you cannot get the truth when you have not lived it) coloured by stigma, personal judgement and politics.

This is not a representation of the lived experiences of sex workers.  This is the highly personal view of Peta Brady who is a Salvation Army worker, an organisation known for it’s stigmatising views of sex work. That sex workers confidentially given accounts of rape and trauma are being used as a vehicle to push the views of a non-sex worker and profit from this as entertainment is adding insult to literal injury.  This is the appropriation of sex workers stories, accounts of trauma divorced from the completeness of our lives, as if trauma is all there is.  While publicly supporting the decriminalisation of sex work the Salvation Army continues to portray sex workers as if there is nothing beyond victim hood – sex workers presented without agency or context.

So now imagine this: join sex workers in taking action, online and in person – by contacting the Griffin Theatre to indicate that using accounts of rape and trauma without permission is never acceptable. Sex workers speak for ourselves, our personal stories belong to us and it is our right if, and when to tell them.

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Join us in taking action:

Share this post and spread the word that sex workers’ confidential accounts of rape and trauma are not for entertainment or profit, click on the links at the end of this post to share via Twitter, Facebook, Google or WordPress.

Griffin Theatre Company – Facebook – posts on July 30th and Aug 5th show the autopsy scene and a post on July 28th shows a character holding a copy of the closed sex worker only Ugly Mugs publication.  Comments can be added on individual posts or post to page.

Griffin Theatre – Twitter – the Griffin are using #uglymugs to tweet – I would suggest including this but also adding #rightsnotrescue

Malthouse Theatre – Facebook – post referring to “The play’s great achievement is humanizing the victim..” on June 2nd and a post detailing costume design including “working girl” on May 29th.  Comments can be added on individual posts or post to page.

Malthouse Theatre – Twitter – also using #uglymugs to tweet – again would suggest including this but adding #rightsnotrescue to tweets

Griffin Theatre Company (Website) – Ugly Mugs – comments can be added at end of the page.

In attempts to raise this issue with media organisations – out of seven contacts only two responded, but as of this posting none have published on the issue.

Updates will be provided as available.

 

NOTE: it was erroneously noted in the above opinion editorial that the Salvation Army support the decriminalisation of sex work – although the Salvation Army have supported projects and publications (for example ‘Street Walking Blues: Sex Work, St Kilda and the Street’, 2006) that have endorsed decriminalisation of sex work, the Salvation Army takes no official public position on sex work regulation.
The Salvation Army do however have a long history of stigmatising sex workers, refer below:
‘Salvos use sex workers to get donations again’, Crikey (June 10th, 2016)
‘Salvation Army Continues Distributing “Prostitute” Material After It Said It Wouldn’t’, Buzzfeed (June 2nd, 2016)
‘Salvos apologise to sex workers over ads’, ABC (May 22nd, 2009)

Sex workers must be the stakeholders in any discussion on sex work…

During an AGM in which sex workers were shouted down and abused after being invited to participate in a discussion about the human rights of sex workers, Amnesty International Australia has passed resolutions (see following) in which sex workers are not included as stakeholders,

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Statement supplied by Amnesty on the resolutions passed at the Amnesty AGM, 6th July, Melbourne:

“At the recent Annual General Meeting of all AIA branches in Melbourne, the AGM (comprehensively) voted against the resolution calling for AIA to endorse and advocate for the Nordic Model.

The other resolutions that were passed (see below) called on the NEC to request the International Secretariat investigate the Nordic AND other sex work legislation models and to request the IS to halt the current consultation process and start again.

All of the feedback received to date will be reviewed by the International Issues Committee, a sub-committee of the AI Australia Board, including the results of the survey. To date, 62% of respondents have endorsed the adoption of a policy advocating decriminalisation.  The AIA Board’s view will be represented in international forums by the Amnesty Australia President and National Director.

Resolutions

The National Annual General Meeting asks the National Executive Committee of Amnesty International Australia to request the International secretariat to:

1. Halt the current consultation process and restart the process from a unbiased perspective, with survivors of trafficking and prostitution being positively included in the policy development process.

2. Completely withdraw and abandon the existing draft policy distributed by the international secretariat. 

The Amnesty International Australia National Annual General Meeting requests that the National Executive Committee of Amnesty International Australia shall advocate to the international secretariat and board for:

  • a new global investigation and consultation on the Nordic Model and alternative models ofprostitution legislation, in partnership with survivors of prostitution and people who have been trafficked into the sex industry.
  • A review of the framework in which any policy on prostitution should sit. Alternative policy frameworks, such as the prevention of torture and trauma or ending violence against women, could be possibilities.”

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Excluding sex workers and including only “survivors of trafficking and prostitution” is essentially silencing current sex workersthe very people whose lives will be affected by any policy on sex work.

When a marginalised group is excluded from any process regarding their rights, their rights are harmed – when sex workers are not included as stakeholders in a process regarding their human rights – sex workers are harmed by that process.

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The Amnesty International Australia, National Human Rights Forum and AGM occurred over two days (the 5th and 6th of July 2014) in Melbourne, Australia.  To read the original presentation to the Forum and the statement to the AGM, see below –

Read presentation to Amnesty National Human Rights Forum (5th July): Amnesty International: Decriminalising Sex Work – What are the issues?

Read statement to Amnesty AGM (6th July): Amnesty (again) – Statement to the AGM

Amnesty (again) – Statement to the AGM

Amnesty International Australia, AGM – 6th July 2014, Melbourne
Sex Worker Statement

[note: a edited version of this speech, cut due to a two minute time constraint was given at the AGM, this is the full version]

My name is Jane Green.

I am here today as a representative of Scarlet Alliance the Australian sex workers organisation – whose members, staff and volunteers are all current or former sex workers. I am also a member of Vixen the local peer sex worker organisation. I am also a sex worker – I have worked under criminalisation (NZ prior to Decriminalisation in 2003) and decriminalisation (in NSW), and currently work here in Victoria under a licensing regime.

It needs to be said that just as toxic views that further stigma & discrimination against other marginalised groups are not differences of opinion, views that further stigma & discrimination against sex workers are not differences of opinion.

Anti-sex work rhetoric that:
– denies sex worker agency,
– denies sex worker bodily autonomy,
– seeks to deny sex workers the right to work &
– deny sex workers human rights & labour rights in that work,
IS NOT A DIFFERENCE OF AN OPINION.
THIS IS HATESPEECH. THIS IS WHOREPHOBIA.

Anti-sex worker groups, what is known as the “rescue industry” have a stake in arguing against sex workers rights – it’s how they maintain their academic tenure, keep their funding, and their jobs…

But let me make this clear – I do not want and have never asked to be rescued – & no one is ever helped by having their access to human rights & labour rights persistently denied.

Anti-sex worker groups want you to think this is a debate and there are two sides. There are not. I am a current sex worker and I will be back at work tomorrow – with my human rights being violated – anti-sex worker groups & non sex workers won’t be there with me and other sex workers across Australia who face the daily impact of not having our human rights and labour rights protected under law.

I am asking you to recognise what should be self evident in this – sex workers speak from lived experience – ongoing living experience – we are the stakeholders in this & it is our lives that are effected. Do not let our voices be drowned out by those who seek to deny our rights.

The Swedish Model does not help sex workers or end sex work.

It seeks to cast all sex work in a gender binary model – that clients are male perpetrators and that sex workers are female victims. This is untrue of the demographic of sex workers worldwide, and marginalises male, trans and gender diverse sex workers.

The Swedish Model has had severe negative health and safety outcomes for sex workers in Sweden:
– increased harassment and displacement of street-based sex workers
– reduced control for all sex workers over their working environments
– provisions of the law around renting rooms have caused homelessness
– laws on “living off the earnings” of sex work have caused sex workers working together and even the adult children of sex workers to be charged as pimps
– sex work has been driven underground and sex workers forced into more isolated areas
– sex workers cannot advertise or hire drivers, receptionists or security

It is a failed model:

– ineffective in reducing the size of the industry (Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare said there was no clear trend of development as to whether sex work had increased or decreased)
– it has not led to a reduction in violence against sex workers, violence against sex workers has increased under the Swedish Model (Malmo Police, 2001)

(Also ref: http://youtu.be/7D7nOh57-I8)

It is impossible to criminalise clients and decriminalise sex workers. When you criminalise our clients, you criminalise us.

The “research” cited by anti-sex worker groups is from highly problematic and discredited sources, for example –

Melissa Farley:
Widely discredited for not having her work peer reviewed or using scientific method (noteby – only one study used a control group, ref: http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/a-load-of-farley/)
– In court, Justice Susan Himel in 2010, noted Farley’s testimony was “…problematic…advocacy appears to have permeated her opinions..contradict her own findings…”

Sheila Jeffreys discredited as known whorephobe & transphobe:
– Has compared being trans to entertainers wearing “blackface”
(http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/local-news/leading-feminist-launches-bizarre-racist-attack-on-trans-community/118883)
– In her writing states, “The act which men commonly perform on prostituted women is penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse. There is nothing “natural” about that act”
(‘The Idea of Prostitution’, Sheila Jeffreys, 1998)
As researcher Jody Hanson noted in her review of the book at the time – it was noted by sex workers at the time that Jeffreys was “using sex work to serve her own interests” .
(original quote “prostituting prostitution to serve her own interests”, refer: http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/Reviews/hanson98/

Decriminalization is recognized as the worlds best practise model for sex industry regulation by:
– Australia’s National HIV strategy
– Multiple medical studies
– Reviews of decriminalization
– Sex worker organisations, projects & networks
– Sex workers (past & present)

In studies of the sex industry in environments prior to and after the implementation of decriminalization it has been seen that the number of sex workers in the industry is not affected.
“…the number of sex workers in New Zealand has not increased as a result of the passage of the PRA…” (Report of the PLRC on the Operation of the PLA 2003, page.29)

It has been shown that STI rates & safe sex outcomes are maximized under decriminalization.
“…condom use for vaginal and anal sex exceeds 99% and sexually transmissible infection rates are at historic lows. These gains are attributable to the long-term support of the NSW Department of Health in collaboration with the community-based Sex Workers Outreach Project and sexual health services, facilitated by the removal of criminal sanctions without the expense and access barriers of licensing systems.”
(Improving the health of sex workers in NSW: maintaining success, Basil Donovan, Christine Harcourt, Sandra Egger Christopher K. Fairley, 2010)

In a decriminalised model sex workers have greater access to justice and less barriers in reporting crimes of violence.

Industry transparency and access by outreach services is increased under decriminalisation because there is no longer a need to fear or avoid government agencies or police.

Decriminalisation is recognised as a worlds best practise model having been in place in NSW for almost 20 years.

Conclusion
I believe I should have the same human rights and labour rights as other citizens. Anyone who is arguing against decriminalisation is arguing that I, and other sex workers, should not have human rights and labour rights on parity with other citizens. To quote yourselves – to quote Amnesty – human rights should be:

(From Amnesty Australia website – http://www.amnesty.org.au/about/comments/21681/)
· Universal “they belong to everyone…”
· Inherent “they belong to people simply because they are human beings”
· Inalienable “they cannot be taken away, period”
· Essential “they are essential for freedom, justice and peace”
· But, they can be Violated “inalienable but not invulnerable…”

The vote today is an opportunity for Amnesty Delegates to take a step forward on the path to ending an ongoing violation of sex workers human rights.

I strongly encourage you to take that step.

NOTE: see Amnesty’s response to the abusive behaviour of anti-sex worker proponents of the Swedish Model, on both days of the National meeting in Melbourne, here –
https://www.amnesty.org.au/about/comments/34983

Amnesty International: Decriminalising Sex Work – What Are The Issues?

Presented at Amnesty International, National Human Rights Forum, Melbourne, 5th July 2014

Zahra Stardust & Jane Green

toronto_realwork

We would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation, and pay respect to their Elders both past and present.

We would also like to recognise the sex workers, past and present, in the room today, including those who cannot be out.

Scarlet Alliance is the Australian Sex Workers’ Association. We are the national peak body representing individual sex workers, sex worker networks, groups, community-based organisations and projects around Australia, and we were formed in 1989. Scarlet Alliance is 25 years old.

We are a peer organisation, meaning that all our staff, volunteers, Executive and members are past or present sex workers. We have a policy to exclude owners and operators of sex industry businesses from our membership. This means we only represent sex workers. We do not represent any industry or business interests.

Each year we hold a National Forum and Annual General Meeting, and sex workers from all over the country attend. There we develop key policies, hold workshops and elect an Executive Committee, trans and gender diverse representatives, a male representative and an international spokesperson. Scarlet Alliance has the highest level of contact with sex workers in Australia of any agency, government or non-government. We have multicultural and culturally linguistically diverse project workers and a migration project. Our extensive consultation processes mean that our policies are evidence-based and reflect the core issues affecting sex workers in Australia. Decriminalisation is a policy supported by our membership.

There is a strong history in Australia of others speaking on behalf of marginalised people, particularly sex workers, and purporting to know what’s best for us. Academics refer to this as the ‘rescue industry.’ On the surface this may appear well-intentioned. But this has resulted in misguided policies that injure and endanger sex workers. Many of these organisations quote studies contaminated by ideology, with flawed methodology, by authors who have systemically vilified sex workers and trans and gender diverse people. Exit programs are funded at the expense of health promotion and service delivery. Criminalisation is prioritised instead of anti-discrimination law. Our clients are stigmatised while police harassment is celebrated. Moral agendas seek to invisibilise us and abolish our work. Non-sex workers are given speaking space to promote laws that will hurt us, while sex workers are forced to defend ourselves. This is not an environment that is safe for sex workers. It does not assist sex workers. We do not need rescue. We need rights. (You can follow the international sex worker hash tag #rightsnotrescue on Twitter).

In Australia, every state or territory has a different model of sex work regulation. There are 3 main types: criminalisation, licensing, and decriminalisation. This means that in Australia we are well placed to measure the success and failures of these models, and our assessment is that decriminalisation is best. As one sex worker said about NSW, ‘During the criminalised period, workers had to pay police officers money to make sure they didn’t get arrested. Decriminalisation meant an end to corruption.’

There is a concerted push in Australia to adopt what is referred to as the Swedish/Nordic model. Although it purports to criminalise the purchase but not the selling of sexual services, the Swedish Model effectively acts as backdoor criminalisation of sex work. It shifts focus away from rights-based approaches that actually assist current sex workers. It does not help sex workers, and it does not stop sex work.

The Swedish/Nordic model reflects the inaccurate assumption that clients are male perpetrators and that sex workers are female victims. This is untrue of the demographic of sex workers worldwide, and marginalises male, trans and gender diverse sex workers. Sex work is not inherently violent. Across the world, sex workers consistently report that the violence we face is overwhelmingly at the hands of police and governments, rather than clients.

The Swedish model criminalising the purchase of sex was introduced in 1999 in Sweden. It criminalises everyone around sex workers. In Sweden, it is illegal to rent a room to a sex worker, reducing sex workers ability to work independently. Adult children of sex workers living at home with their parents have been charged with living off the earnings of prostitution. Sex workers cannot work together or they risk being charged with pimping each other. Sex workers cannot advertise or hire drivers, receptionists or security. The model has driven sex work underground, increased harassment and displacement of street-based sex workers, forced people into more isolated areas, and reduced sex workers control over their working environments.

The Swedish Model has been completely ineffective in reducing the size of the sex industry. In 2007 the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare said there was no clear trend of development as to whether sex work had increased or decreased.The Swedish Government’s 2010 Official Evaluation notes that they have only limited information about indoor sex work. In 2001 the Malmo police reported that there was no evidence that the law had reduced violence, rather there was evidence it had increased.

It is impossible to criminalise clients and decriminalise sex workers. When you criminalise our clients, you criminalise us. Under the Swedish Model, police detection and surveillance is on both the client and the sex worker, but sex workers experience the brunt of corruption.

The wilful blindness towards evidence in Australia has led to four politicians recently taking a 3-week tax-payer-funded tour of up to $70,000 to France, Sweden and South Korea to study models that have consistently failed. They did not meet any sex workers on their tour and instead met with police and criminal prosecutors. They refused an invitation by Scarlet Alliance and SWOP to tour NSW and experience the decriminalised model.

Instead they have looked toward South Korea, who enacted anti-sex work laws in 2004 resulting in increased law and order crackdowns targeting sex workers, including police forcibly and violently shutting down workplaces. The Korean Government recently sent its special ambassador to Canberra with view to obtaining support from the Australian Government in tracking down Korean sex workers in order to prosecute them. Korean sex workers have reported being too afraid to go to work for fear of identification and prosecution. These models do not support the rights, health or safety of sex workers.

In comparison, sex work is decriminalised in NSW. Decriminalisation involves: Removing police as regulators of the sex industry; Repealing criminal laws specific to the sex industry; Regulating sex industry businesses through standard business, planning and industrial codes; and not singling out sex workers for specific regulation. Decriminalisation is a whole-of-government approach to regulation.

One of the catalysts for decriminalisation was the findings of the Wood Royal Commission that there was systemic police corruption when police were regulators of brothels. Sex work has been decriminalised since 1995 – nearly 20 years – and NSW is world-renowned as having a best practice model. The outcomes of decriminalisation in NSW are:

–          Extremely low rates of STIs and HIV (recognised by Australia’s National Strategies and the Kirby Institute Annual Surveillance Report);

–          Better access to health promotion (finding of the Law and Sex Worker Health Study, which compared the health impacts of legal frameworks across Victoria, NSW and WA);

–          Little to no amenity impacts (recognised by Crofts and Prior);

–          No evidence of organised crime (recognised by the Land and Environment Court);

–          Better access to Occupational Health and Safety (WorkCover and NSW Health worked with sex workers to create Health and Safety Guidelines for Brothels, which have been translated to Thai, Chinese and Korean); and

–          No increase in the size of the sex industry (Kirby Institute report to Ministry of Health).

Around the world, sex workers are advocating for decriminalisation. In 2013 experts from a dozen countries met in Sydney for a decriminalisation conference, including nearly 50 sex workers, community leaders, human rights activists, advocates and politicians from Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and Europe.

United Nations bodies recognise decriminalisation as best practice:

  • Australia, as a signatory to the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, has committed to protect and promote human rights and the elimination of stigma and discrimination for sex workers as a critical element in combating the global HIV epidemic.
  • The UNAIDS Guidance Note on HIV and Sex Work 2009 recognises that criminalisation poses substantial obstacles in accessing HIV prevention, treatment and support.
  • 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.
  • United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls for change in countries where discrimination remains legal against sex workers.
  • Former Australian High Court judge the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG insists upon rights for sex workers as a matter of public morality.
  • Australia’s National HIV Strategy recognises the protection of human rights to be ‘essential’ to the effective protection of public health.

Decriminalisation is not controversial. It is not even new. It makes sense – from a policy perspective, health perspective and human rights perspective.

Sex worker human rights are intrinsically linked to sex workers’ ability to negotiate with clients, and to access essential services and satisfactory workplace conditions.

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work. The International Labour Organisation’s Employment Policy Convention 122 provides that there is freedom of choice of employment and the fullest opportunity for workers to use their skills in jobs for which they are well suited.

Sex worker law reform should not be pitched as a polarised debate. There are not 2 sides to this issue. Sex workers are the key stakeholders. We are the ones who have most to lose. No situation is made worse by greater access to human rights.

Decriminalisation of sex work is compatible with and necessary to Amnesty’s campaigns to promote human rights and end violence. Violence against sex workers is enabled by criminalisation. It is enabled by the Swedish Model. It enabled by a lack of human rights and labour rights.

If we experience violence at work, we should be able to go to the police and access justice, without fear of arrest or deportation. If we experience unfair working conditions, we should be able to go to Fair Work Australia, and know that they will take our concerns seriously. We deserve to have Occupational Health and Safety protections in our workplaces. Decriminalisation is the only model to afford us human rights and labour rights as other citizens – we deserve nothing less.