The “best of times” & the “worst of times” (SlutWalk 2015)

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My name is Jane Green and I am a current sex worker.

I am speaking today, as a sex worker and also on behalf of Scarlet Alliance[1], Australian Sex Workers Association and also Vixen Collective[2], Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation.

I do not speak for all sex workers, because no one can.
I speak from my own personal experience of sex work.

This has been a difficult speech for me to write, not because there is a lack of things to say – but because there is so much.

Much like the Dickens quote, I often feel like it is both the “best of times” and the “worst of times”.

The “best of times” because as sex workers we are constantly fighting for our rights, often achieving so much, and yet it is still the “worst of times” because conservatives and anti-sex work feminists are arrayed against us trying to erase our successes and criminalise our work and lives.

To us, to sex workers, this fight is eternally visible – it is the fabric of our lives and work. But to those that are not part of our community it is often hidden and I believe this is what makes it easier for people to turn away from our struggles, rather than joining us as allies.

Sex worker organisations across Australia and across the world work ceaselessly for the full decriminalisation of sex work – this is supported by the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, Human Rights Watch, Australia’s National HIV Strategies, Scarlet Alliance, Vixen Collective, sex worker organisations nationally and globally – and most recently Amnesty International. Yet we are still working, we are still fighting.

I would like to take you on a tour of what that work is like for me as a sex worker and survivor of rape, over just the last two months.

Vixen Collective, of which I am a member, recently filed a submission with the Royal Commission Into Family Violence (Victoria)[3] . Sex worker organisations across Australia work tirelessly on violence against sex workers, and laws such as the licencing system in Victoria make it much harder for sex workers to report violence to police, or to seek justice through the courts.

Imagine my depressing lack of surprise when submissions to the Royal Commission began to be published and I realised anti-sex work group Project Respect had claimed in their submission that they were the:

..leading agency addressing violence against women in the sex industry[4]

This strangely omits in Victoria – Vixen Collective, RhED[5] and Melbourne Sexual Health[6] -but also every other sex worker organisation in Australia.

Project Respect, commonly referred to as Project (dis)Respect by sex workers, also states that:

“..failing to address family and other male violence against women in the sex industry makes other women vulnerable to men’s violence..[7]
This is a shocking form of victim blaming – essentially blaming sex workers for violence against ALL women – rather than focusing on perpetrators of violence and the systemic causes of that violence.

Most important is the fact that Project Respect is NOT a sex worker organisation but rather an organisation that seeks to criminalise our work, via the Swedish Model[8] of sex work regulation, which would place sex workers at greater risk of violence.

Project Respect also publicly state that they are working towards the abolition of ALL sex work[9].

But this is common. Anti-sex work groups attempts to silence sex workers in Australia abound.

Vixen Collective held the Festival of Sex Work[10] in August of this year. There were sex worker only peer education workshops. Public events to demystify sex work. Social events for sex workers, a film night, lunches, and much more.

As part of the closing of the Festival a protest was held in Swanson Street and photos (of sex workers that were comfortable having their photo taken) were posted on social media.

We were almost immediately attacked by a member of an anti sex work group on Twitter – claiming that there were no “women of colour..but plenty of white men”.

Now I have nothing specific against white men (many of them give me money), but I only remember five or so “white men” out of about nine-five protesters, and the lead speaker was Rory – an aboriginal street based sex worker.

So either the person attacking us on Twitter was at a different protest or they just made that up to be a troll. Which is actually a common thing – harassing sex workers online.

Second only to harassing sex workers in person.

Since I’ve been involved in sex worker activism I have had my photo taken by radical feminists, been called a “cult leader” on the internet, had “pimp lobby”[11] shouted at me while speaking at an Amnesty International meeting and been called privileged so many times that as a ex-street based sex worker, rape survivor, someone who has experienced homelessness throughout my life, and member of a marginalised community subject to stigma and discrimination – that I’m frankly a little over it.

But I’m also over it because when it comes to the laws that affect sex workers lives and work – the voices of ALL current sex workers are critical. Because regardless of what anyone else says we’re the ones who have to go back to work tomorrow and live with the consequences. It is our lived experience that counts and it is our lives that will be affected.

Crowd at Slut Walk Melbourne, Sept 5th 2015

Crowd at Slut Walk Melbourne, Sept 5th 2015

Finally I want to tell you about what I experienced when speaking in Western Australia, at a forum on sex industry regulation[12], opposite Peter Abetz (a Liberal politician) and Simone Watson (current Director of NorMAC, an anti-sex work group).

Much of the rhetoric of both of the opposing speakers centered around silencing sex workers. Anti-sex work groups often like to claim that either sex workers are so downtrodden we can’t speak for ourselves (and must be rescued) or if we do speak for ourselves then it’s a sign we’re privileged (so we shouldn’t be listened to).

This is a tactic used by anti-sex work groups, designed to silence anyone who does not agree with them. But what is really telling if you listen to anti-sex work groups, is the language they use to describe sex workers:

They call us “product” not people

They say sex workers “sell their bodies”, but my body is still here, I sell a service

But most tellingly – just one day after the Amnesty International decision to endorse decriminalisation of sex work – Simone Watson, Director of NorMAC, said the following:

“…at McDonalds you’re flipping the burgers, in prostitution you’re the meat…”

Let me be quite clear.

Those that seek to deny sex workers human rights – are essentially denying sex workers are human.

Those that outright call sex workers “meat” – aren’t even trying to hide it.

So I go back to what I said at the start.

To us, to sex workers, this fight is eternally visible – it is the fabric of our lives and work.

To you, I hope it is now more visible – make a choice, make a difference – join us as allies.

(If you’re not sure what you can do, ask us how)

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Want more information on joining sex workers in fighting for the full decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria?
Join Vixen Collective on Twitter here: @VixenCollective
Or visit Vixen Collective’s website – vixencollective.blogspot.com.au

Want to support sex worker rights at a national level in Australia?
Join Scarlet Alliance on Twitter here: @scarletalliance
Or visit Scarlet Alliance’s website – scarletalliance.org.au

You can follow me directly on Twitter at: @sexliesducttape

To find the details of other state and territory sex worker organisations – click here

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References

[1] Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association), http://scarletalliance.org.au/

[2] Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), http://vixencollective.blogspot.com.au/

[3] Royal Commission Into Family Violence (Victoria), http://www.rcfv.com.au/

[4]Project Respect is the leading agency addressing violence against women in the sex industry“, Project Respect Submission into the Royal Commission on Family Violence, pg2

[5] Resourcing Health and Education (RhED), http://sexworker.org.au/

[6] Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, http://www.mshc.org.au/

[7] Project Respect Submission into the Royal Commission on Family Violence, pg2

[8] Amnesty (again) – Statement to the AGM, https://sexliesducttape.me/2014/07/06/amnesty-again-statement-to-the-agm/

[9] From Project Respect website, ‘Our Vision’: “Project Respect’s vision is for a world where women are free from..prostitution..”

[10] Festival of Sex Work, http://festivalofsexwork.blogspot.com.au/

[11] Amnesty International: Decriminalising Sex Work – What Are the Issues?, https://sexliesducttape.me/2014/07/05/amnesty-international-decriminalising-sex-work-what-are-the-issues/

[12] Forum on Regulating Sex Work in Western Australia, https://sexliesducttape.me/2015/08/12/forum-on-regulating-sex-work-in-western-australia/

Forum on Regulating Sex Work in Western Australia

**Please note: this post contains language that may be triggering/offensive, including whorephobic speech, as it reports on comments made by anti sex work groups and their members**

Tonight, just one day after the Amnesty International resolution to develop a policy recommending the full decriminalisation of sex work, the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia (UWA) played host to a forum on regulating sex work.

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Speakers included:

In favour of full decriminalisation of sex work, local sex worker Rebecca Davies, member of People for Sex Worker Rights W.A. (local peer sex worker organisation) and Jane Green, Vice President of Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association).

With opposing views in favour of the Swedish (sometimes called Nordic) Model of sex work regulation, Peter Abetz (Liberal Member for South River in W.A.) and Simone Watson (Director of NorMAC, the Nordic Model in Australia Coalition).

Given the history of whorephobic activity and abusive behaviour at public events by anti sex work groups and their members in Australia, Rebecca and I were apprehensive but determined in defending sex worker rights in this setting.  Also we were encouraged by the decision taken by Amnesty International yesterday.

However.

We were subject to the type of stigmatising speech sex workers who speak out about their rights are often subject to, such as:

“…legalising the right to sell her body…”  Peter Abetz

“…at McDonalds you’re flipping the burgers, in prostitution you’re the meat…”  Simone Watson

Audience members had to be removed for taking photos of speakers, despite clear advance notice before the event, written notice at the event and announcements before speakers began.

These are the tactics of stigma, intimidation and silencing used by anti sex work groups and their members.

We refuse to remain silent.

Our speeches are detailed below…

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My name is Jane Green and I am a current sex worker.

I am speaking today, as a sex worker and also on behalf of Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association. We are a peer organisation, this means at every level – staff, volunteers, members and executive committee – we are all current or former sex workers. We do not allow owners or operators of sex industry businesses to hold membership in our organisation.
We are a sex worker organisation – and like other sex worker organisations we represent and are accountable to our community.

I do not speak for all sex workers, because no one can.
I speak from my own personal experience of sex work.

That may seem an unusual thing to say when I have just said that I am speaking on behalf of an organisation that represents sex workers across Australia, but let me explain – I am here to speak about facts. Because I believe in facts. I am here to speak about the evidence that sex worker organisations like the Scarlet Alliance here in Australia, but also sex worker organisations across the world have on sex work, on sex workers experiences – and that evidence reflects my own personal experience of sex work.

Scarlet Alliance, through its member organisations in Australia has the highest level of contact with sex workers of any organisation in Australia.

Sex worker organisations exist throughout the world. In some countries it is illegal to openly admit to being a sex worker or to have membership of a sex worker organisation.

Anti sex work groups regularly portray sex worker organisations as run by those in positions of privilege, or as “industry lobby groups”. This is a blatant lie designed to silence sex workers and their representative organisations. Instead of a standard power-point display I have chosen to run a display of images of sex workers and sex worker organisations from around the world protesting for the full decriminalisation of sex work – you will be able to see clearly that our community is diverse, yet united, in calling for sex workers’ rights to be recognised.

You may have noticed during this event that there are some differences in language being used, by the people to my LEFT.

As Rebecca has explained sex workers, generally prefer to be called sex workers. When our community, the representative organisations for our community – across the country and across the world, as well as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations all ask people to use the term sex worker you might not think that would be a lot to ask.

But it’s a different story when the people you are asking are specifically using language as a tactic to oppress you.
Sex work is work.
My work is real work.
& I have never had anyone adequately explain how having less rights would somehow “save me” or improve my situation.

SWParis

So what do we actually mean when we say that – that the Swedish (sometimes called the Nordic) Model would give us less rights?
When anti sex work groups talk about the Swedish Model “only criminalising clients ” what does that mean?
For a start it doesn’t just criminalise clients, it also criminalises all of the surrounding activities around sex work – Rebecca has outlined this.
But also, about “criminalising clients” under the Swedish Model, in reality exactly how does that work?

Do we imagine the police are just following random people around waiting for them to maybe decide to visit a sex worker?
Are there special psychic police that just know when someone might want to pay for sex?
New advanced technology like the Tom Cruise movie ‘Minority Report’ where police can anticipate what you are going to do in the future before you get there?

Surprisingly no.

Under the Swedish Model police actually target sex workers – the police follow, harass and stake out sex workers while trying to arrest clients.
This is what the “criminalisation of clients” looks like in reality.
This pushes sex workers underground, creates barriers to sex workers accessing peer support networks and health services, limits options when choosing clients and negotiating boundaries, increases risk, and makes it almost impossible to go to police if a sex worker is subjected to violence.

Also, so much of the rhetoric put out by anti sex work groups is centred around stigmatising sex workers and encouraging discrimination against my community.
I would like to point out that I am now going to read a quote, made in relation to the attack on Amnesty International’s support of the decriminalisation of sex work, but please clearly understand that these are the words of an anti sex work group (so I apologise for having to read them, and to those that may find them triggering and offensive):

“Shouldn’t Amnesty be focusing more on ensuring women have a real choice – that they have real agency – by addressing the underlying poverty, discrimination and lack of education that lead women into prostitution..”[1]

That was a short quote.
Let me explain why sex workers often seem so angry when dealing with anti sex work groups:

ensuring women have a real choice”

Not all sex workers are women. Sex workers are people. This may mean women, INCLUDING trans women. This may mean men, INCLUDING trans men. But it also means people that identify across the gender spectrum. & I am not sorry that we do not fit into the box in which anti sex work groups seek to put us.

a real choice”

Thanks for deciding for me, that my choice is “not real”, when comparatively I guess everyone else’s is. Anti sex work groups often claim that any one that actually advocates for sex worker community can’t be representative OF sex worker community. I feel compelled to point out:
The individual sex workers and sex worker representatives that have been behind me throughout my speech on the PowerPoint display would like to illustrate that this is a deliberate attempt to mislead you and to silence our community.

KoreanSW2011

ensuring … that they have real agency”

Agency is your ability to act independently and make your own free choices. The structure of society around us (class, religion, gender, all of these things) influence us. They influence ALL of us.
Anti sex work groups sometimes focus on the idea that sex workers don’t have “free choice”.
WAKE UP and smell the capitalism!
We ALL live and work in a world where we all have to LIVE and WORK.
Unless you are part of a select minority born into wealth and privilege, yes, you will have to work.
People across the world experience relative degrees of privilege (for example white privilege) and are also impacted by the social environment in which they live and work.
But no worker is ever helped by having less options.
Attempting to criminalise sex work – any part of our work – is attempting to limit our options and in doing so makes our work unsafe.
To constrain us from making decisions about where, when and how we work – and most fundamentally whether we should be able to work at all is offensive.
Whatever “choices” we have – we have the right to make them. To suggest that we do not is fundamentally offensive.

addressing the underlying poverty”

Poverty is a global, awful, complex issue – caused by rich countries, webs of influence, the IMF, bad government, charities that do not listen to the communities they serve (or even realise they serve those communities), a host of other factors, as well as social and personal indifference to other peoples suffering.
But poverty does not cause sex work – people living in poverty need to work and support themselves and their families – removing another option by which they can do so is not helping them. It is simply makes the lives of those engaging in sex work whilst living in poverty more dangerous.

“..lack of education..”

Okay, thanks for that – it’s nice to know what anti sex work groups think of us.

I’m not sure what level of education they consider appropriate for a particular workforce before intervention and saving is required, but maybe they could tell us? – perhaps a University degree?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures in 2007 indicate that 21% of people aged 25-64[2] in Australia had a Bachelor Degree or above, so by suggesting that “lack of education” (to some standard they have yet to define) is an issue, anti sex work groups may be insulting a larger proportion of the Australian workforce (76%) than they imagine.
& just how educated are Australian sex workers?

In a study conducted by the Queensland Government, also in 2007, 25% of sex workers surveyed had a university degree – so in Australia (or at least in Queensland) we’ve edged out in front slightly[3].

“discrimination”
Sex workers are currently discriminated against in a multitude of ways on a daily basis across Australia.
I would like to give you a list of examples that I keep when I advocate for sex work community – but when I timed my speech including the list it put me three minutes over time.
After this event my speech will be posted online and includes the list of discrimination that sex workers face in Australia, that is NOT a complete list, but illustrative – I would encourage you to access this, as often the concept of discrimination is an intangible concept, invisible if you are not a part of our community.

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This is a list of examples of the types of discrimination sex workers in Australia face, that had to be omitted from the speech at the W.A. Forum on Regulating Sex Work, Wednesday the 12th of August, due to the length of time it would have taken to include it into the event.
Please be aware this list is not extensive, also:
a) it is illustrative of the discrimination that sex workers in Australia face, used as examples when advocating for sex worker community (& sometimes when doing sex worker advocates only have short windows of time in which to advocate),
b) many sex workers experience intersecting marginalisation (for example: sex workers of colour and trans sex workers)
c) the last point is (in my opinion) the most important point

  • Sex workers experience stigma and discrimination through ‘outing’, being exposed as a sex worker, this can impact on workers but also on families, partner/s and friends
  • It can affect school age and/or older children if a parent or carer is who is a sex worker is ‘outed
  • Sex workers may experience interpersonal and/or interfamilial violence when ‘outed’
  • Being a sex worker may affect the outcome of child custody cases
  • Sex worker status may affect access to housing and accommodation
  • Sex worker status affects employment disputes & future employment opportunities
  • Being out or being ‘outed’ as a sex worker leads to discrimination regarding health insurance
  • The ‘Leaking’ and misuse of personal information on sex workers can lead to stalking, blackmail & extortion
  • There are less opportunities for sex workers to utilise remedies to address discrimination
  • Sex workers are discriminated against regarding goods and services (including banking and online commerce)
  • Sex workers have been barred entry to clubs or hotels
  • There is discrimination in education against sex workers (including the exclusion of sex workers from University Courses on ‘morals clauses’)
  • Sex workers are discriminated against regularly in medical settings (for example refusal and/or exclusion from treatment ‘on conscience’)
  • Sex workers have been discriminated against in membership of trade unions
  • Sex workers experience the implication of ‘criminality’ that is implied by registration under licensing regimes
  • Sex workers have less ability to access police/justice under criminalised and licensing systems.
  • There is reduced access to health/outreach services for sex workers under criminalisation/licensing systems for regulating sex work
  • Sex workers experience increased stigma and discrimination in media
  • Police attitudes to sex workers, including corruption and harassment from criminalisation, or entrenched stigma/discrimination from prior criminalisation – affect sex workers ability to access police and their treatment when sex workers do.
  • Sex workers are subject to stalking and harassment from anti sex work groups and their members, including outing to family and in social media
  • Lastly, sex workers are often NOT HEARD – OUR VOICES, SEX WORKERS VOICES are always the most critical voices in ANY discussion about OUR lives and OUR work.

If there is a discussion on sex work happening in Australia, in government, on policy, in media, on our LIVES – if sex workers are not INCLUDED, if our representative organisations are not there – then be aware a choice has been made to deliberately exclude us.

And if anti sex work groups attempt to remove sex workers from discussions about our lives and work, we are not required to sit down, shut up, behave politely and wait for them to stop trying to ‘rescue us’.

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We’ve been ‘rescuing’ ourselves for years. We call it – sex worker activism.

Equality for sex workers is a future that sex workers are creating every day, through the action and voices of our community and our own sex worker organisations.  This future can be achieved more easily with allies by our sides, making space for sex worker voices to be heard and supporting our activism.  It is not aided by anti sex work groups that do not recognise our voices, rarely if ever talk to us, but frequently talk about us – who refer to us as objects: as “bodies”, say that we are “bought” and “sold”, who call us “product”.

I do not “sell my body”.  My body is still here.  I sell a service.

Suggestions from anti sex work groups and the ‘rescue industry’ that sex workers need others to speak on our behalf, that we are not the experts on our own lives and work – that is silencing our community, that IS exploitation of sex workers.

I cannot expect anti sex work groups to stop working against us.

But I ask you to START WORKING WITH US:
– become a sex worker ALLY
– START speaking up in support of sex workers
– DO NOT BE QUIET when people use hate speech to define us, calling us epithets rather than calling us SEX WORKERS, objectifying us and demeaning us rather than calling our work, just that – SEX WORK
Nothing about us, should ever be without us.

[1] ‘Amnesty International – The Sex Trades New Best Friend’, Tasmanian Times, http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/pr-article/amnesty-international-the-sex-trades-new-best-friend/, Simone Watson, 13-Jul-15.

[2] Refer Australian Bureau of Statistics – http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mediareleasesbyTopic/CAB937E9717F783BCA2568A900136267?OpenDocument

[3] In terms of education, about one-quarter of licensed brothel workers and sole operators reported that they had completed a bachelor degree. This compares favourably with the general community. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics publication, Education and Work, May 2007, 21% of Australians aged between 15 and 64 years had attained a bachelor degree or above..”, Select Sex Industry Statistics, Prostitution Licensing Authority, Queensland Government.

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My name is Rebecca Davies, I am a Western Australian sex worker and a member of People for Sex Worker Rights in W.A., a peer sex worker group that aims to have our work decriminalized and remove the social stigma sex workers face. Our decision making committee is made up of current sex workers only.

In researching my opponent tonight, I have come to a simple conclusion, Peter Abetz is misguided in his attempts to “help” women. Sticking with his Christian background Peter believes that the government and more importantly men, have a role in regulating women’s bodies. This is evident to me with Peter’s long campaigning for more restrictive abortion laws, saying things such as:

“..the silly thing is if a child is injured in an accident, it can claim damages but if a mother says it’s inconvenient and has the baby killed, the law says that’s perfectly okay..”

in the West Australian, and his persistent attempts to undermine sex workers health and safety by campaigning for the Swedish (sometimes called Nordic) model at every opportunity.

NoSwedishModel

I have been a sex worker for over ten years. I have worked within various legal frameworks in my time, and I have also seen the difference between laws, intentions, and how things are actually implemented on the ground. I have worked with other sex workers doing sex work, and I have also previously worked as a peer educator providing outreach services and health promotion to sex workers across W.A., in sex industry venues, private workplaces and on the street in street based sex work areas.

At this point I would like to give some background on Western Australia. Up until 2000 sex work here was illegal. Keeping a brothel, soliciting etc. way back when, even the police knew this would not work, and the W.A. police, understanding even then, that they could not eradicate the sex industry, implemented what was commonly known as “the containment policy”. This policy, which was not law, but rather police policy, started in Kalgoorlie, in the famous (or infamous) Hay Street area red light district. Under the policy police allowed certain premises to operate only in certain areas of town. The police had to know who was working where. The policy was eventually implemented across the state and certain venues were allowed to operate, workers had to be registered with vice. I began working after the law change, although some workers were not aware of the change, and police continued to collect information. Police have never given clear answers about where this information is kept, for what purpose it is kept and who has access to it.

Often groups advocating the Swedish Model do not seem to understand that just like full criminalization and licencing, it still positions police as the regulators of the industry. The police cannot be of full assistance to sex workers whilst they are continually cast in this regulatory role, which they are not given in any other industry. How can we seek assistance if we experience violence, if we are either subject to penalties ourselves, or under the Swedish model, where we would be lining ourselves up for police surveillance whilst simultaneously cutting off our own income? Somehow I don’t see myself reporting under those circumstances. I think it is also really important to point out research conducted by Elaine Dowd in 2003, titled “Sex workers rights, human rights the impact of Western Australian legislation on street based sex workers. Dowd cites research from SARC, the sexual assault resource center, which found of sex workers reporting sexual assaults in Perth, over 50% were perpetrated by police.

Also problematic is the reference within the Swedish Model to literally almost anyone as a pimp. Landlords can be charged with pimping if they don’t evict sex worker tenants. There was even a case of a sex workers adult child charged with pimping because his mother didn’t charge him rent. Another case that particularly resonated with me is that of Petite Jasmine. Because of her status as a sex worker her children were removed from her custody and given to her violent ex-partner. He subsequently stabbed her to death. I don’t understand how people can say this is a step towards equality, when a women can have her children removed and a violent man is deemed a more suitable parent because someone doesn’t agree with how she makes a living. As a sole parent and a sex worker this is one of my biggest fears, to have my child removed because you don’t like my job.

Often when discussing sex worker rights things can become really heated. For us, this is because it is our lives and livelihoods are on the line and at the end of the day, a simple truth remains, changing the law does not actually affect politicians, or even former sex workers, it affects those of us currently working in the industry today. I think the Swedish Model can be summed up by Ann Martin, Sweden’s trafficking unit head who said:

“..of course the law has negative consequences for women in prostitution but that’s also some of the effect that we want to achieve with the law..”

I am tired of not having full access to my human rights. People don’t seem to want to listen to sex workers, often statistics are thrown around by academic types such as “..95% of women in prostitution don’t want to be there..” and “..most start in the industry at 13..” amongst other hysterical claims. When you do a bit of digging you will find that they are in fact all referencing the same material, research conducted by Melissa Farley, an anti-sex work campaigner. Since people don’t pay much attention to sex workers discrediting Dr Farley, I find it much easier to quote one of those academic types that people take seriously, Justice Susan Himel, who was the presiding judge in Canada’s supreme court during Bedford v Canada, in which Canada’s anti-sex work laws were struck down. Justice Himel said of Dr Farley’s research:

“Although Dr. Farley has conducted a great deal of research on prostitution, her advocacy appears to have permeated her opinions. For example, Dr. Farley’s unqualified assertion in her affidavit that prostitution is inherently violent appears to contradict her own findings that prostitutes who work from indoor locations generally experience less violence. Furthermore, in her affidavit, she failed to qualify her opinion regarding the causal relationship between post- traumatic stress disorder and prostitution, namely, that it could be caused by events unrelated to prostitution.
Dr. Farley’s choice of language is at times inflammatory and detracts from her conclusions. For example, comments such as “prostitution is to the community what incest is to the family” and “just as pedophiles justify sexual assault of children . . . . Men who use prostitutes develop elaborate cognitive schemes to justify purchase and use of women” make her opinions less persuasive.
Dr. Farley stated during cross-examination that some of her opinions on prostitution were formed prior to her research, including “that prostitution is a terrible harm to women, that prostitution is abusive in its very nature, and that prostitution amounts to men paying a woman for the right to rape her”.

On this basis Judge Himel eliminated Canada’s anti-sex work laws, deeming them unconstitutional.

And furthermore, in the words of Dr Melissa Farley’s own research assistant on her research in New Zealand where she attempts to discredit decriminalization, in 2003 Colleen Winn said the study:

“..was not ethical, and the impact has done harm to those women and men who took part in it. It is for that reason that I am writing to the psychologists’ board of registration in California to lay a formal complaint regarding Melissa. I also believe that Melissa has committed an act of intentional misrepresentation of fact”

KolkataFreedomFestival

I’m not here today to ask you to be pro sex work, and I’m also not asking for anything special, I just want my work to be decriminalized so I can be treated like everyone else. I want to be able concentrate on my safety at work rather than police evasion tactics. My colleagues and I don’t want to be rescued, we just want to live and work in peace.

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You can read the live tweeting of the event at: #SexWorkWA

For more information on joining Western Australian sex workers in campaigning for the full decriminalisation of sex work:
Visit the website of People for Sex Worker Rights W.A.
Or join People for Sex Worker Rights W.A. on twitter at – @sexworkrightswa

For more information on joining sex workers nationally in Australia campaigning for their human rights and labour rights:
Visit the website of Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association)
Or join Scarlet Alliance on twitter at – @scarletalliance

MJ from Vixen Collective speaks at Reclaim the Night

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On Saturday October 18th Reclaim the Night once more took over the streets of Brunswick,

Reclaim the Night has not always been a safe space for sex workers – sex workers and their workplaces have been targeted by marchers previously (strip clubs have been protested both here in Melbourne and overseas).

But in recent years there has been a concerted effort by organisers to make Reclaim the Night an inclusive space, for both sex workers and trans* people, as emphasized here by organizer Natalie Pestana in an interview with City Journal –

Reclaim the Night: stop blaming the victim

Gathering with sex workers just prior to the event we found it off-putting to see Kathleen Maltzahn among the crowd, local candidate for The Greens and well known for her anti sex work views.  However, organizers had just taped up a sign stating:
NO WHOREPHOBIA WILL BE TOLERATED IN THIS PLACE!!!
to the truck from which the speeches were being made.  We felt reasonably confident our speaker, MJ and other sex workers present would be okay (to put this in context last year I spoke and was heckled).

MJ’s speech (see below) and the other speeches were great and well received.

Then we marched.  The march is a difficult time for me – I don’t like crowds and the police are unsettling.  The police don’t mean safety to many in sex worker community.  In Victoria the police are the arm of the state that regulates sex industry workplaces, to many workers (particularly those whose work is criminalized, including street sex workers) their presence means harassment and violence.  So marching along with police lining the route wasn’t comforting.

About halfway along a mobile billboard for one of the local strip clubs drove by on the other side.  A group of men next to me started yelling abuse.  I went up to them and explained that shouting abuse about women’s workplaces or the women who worked in them wasn’t okay (& also not in keeping with the idea of the event).  They tried to argue with me, obviously upset that I had seen fit to interrupt their god given right to hurl abuse.  I didn’t notice anyone else joining in but apparently it also happened earlier in the march.

Why is it that it’s so hard to get the message across in these settings that whorephobia is not okay?

With many feminist spaces having histories of exclusion and abuse towards sex workers and trans* people, it is necessary moving forward to have inclusive spaces, there must be clear policies of zero tolerance towards whorephobia and transphobia, but it is also critical to listen to those with lived experience – I invite you to do so now:

________________________________________

My name is MJ, I am a Victorian sex worker.
Sex work is often portrayed as violent; sex workers as victims, exploited, or otherwise coerced, but I am none of those things.  I am immensely proud not only of my occupation, but of the strength, resilience and willingness to stand up against stigma that sex workers display globally.
Victorian Sex workers do not operate in the same night as the rest of you, as my fellow worker Jane Green told us last year.
In the state of Victoria we have forced STI testing – despite STI rates being lower for sex workers and condom use being well above that of the non sex working population.
We have special police units set up for us, to control and surveil our industry, our workplaces and our lives but who do not take violence against us seriously.  Indeed, many sex workers in Victoria and other parts of the country report that the biggest perpetrators of violence are indeed the police. This is particularly so for migrant sex workers, who have often come from other countries with the express purpose of entering the sex industry.  And also for those who are working in highly criminalized areas of the industry, such as street sex work.
Police harassment remains a key barrier to our safety and security.
It is extremely difficult to negotiate safety when police avoidance must be your key priority.  In fact, many sex workers never come forward with experiences of violence, because they fear being victim blamed, shamed, being told that they some how invited the violence because of their occupation, or the fear of having their private experiences of violence made public.
Let me make this clear.  Violence against sex workers happens not just because of individuals who choose to perpetrate violence, but because the laws governing sex work, and the way sex workers are viewed in our society ALLOWS IT TO.

Unfortunately violence towards sex workers can continue after a sex worker has died.
Just recently Brisbane sex worker Mayang Prasetyo was murdered by her partner. The Murdoch media, particularly the Courier Mail, and other various news outlets seized upon Mayang’s profession, and her identity as a trans woman.  Mayang is one of an increasing number of women who are murdered by their intimate partners in this country, but this was overshadowed by the media’s desire to dehumanize Mayang and sensationalize her death by drawing on her gender identity and occupation.
Be under no illusion that this too is an act of violence.
To quote from an article in the guardian by local writer Amy Gray “it was not Mayang’s gender identity or occupation that killed her, but a man who felt entitled to murder her”.
Just as with Tracy Connelly before her, whose death was also heavily sensationalized, Sex workers should never be used as fodder for salacious headlines.
We are human beings who in life and death demand dignity, respect, and human rights.
Whether oppression comes from individuals, the media, the medical and legal professions, or certain elements of the artistic communities.  It is oppression that sex workers demand an end to.  It is oppression that non sex workers can support us in ending, by listening to our voices, and by walking beside us as allies on our journeys.
Only then will we walk in the same night as you do.

________________________________________

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Visit Reclaim the Night’s website – Reclaim the Night

Reclaim the Night Melbourne Facebook – RTN Melbourne

Reclaim the Night Melbourne Twitter – @RTNmelb

Eleni from Vixen Collective speaks out at SlutWalk Melbourne

Vixen Collective (Victoria’s Peer Only Sex Worker Organisation) members and sex workers came to SlutWalk Melbourne on Saturday, in support of sex worker and collective member Eleni, who was speaking both as an individual sex worker and endorsed by the collective.

Karen Pickering, introducing speakers at SlutWalk

Karen Pickering, introducing speakers at SlutWalk

Crowd at the State Library during speeches

Crowd at the State Library during speeches

Eleni spoke about the multiple stigma that sex workers face and also talked about the silencing faced by sex workers attending the recent Amnesty International Human Rights Forum and AGM in Melbourne in July of this year.

Members of Vixen Collective supporting Eleni at SlutWalk:

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The crowd was enthusiastic about Eleni’s speech, with many members of the SlutWalk audience coming up to thank Eleni for speaking and the sex worker positive attitude was reflected throughout the day on Vixen Collective’s new Twitter account:

Reclaim the Night supports #sexworkers at SlutWalk

Reclaim the Night supports #sexworkers at SlutWalk

Fellow SlutWalk speaker Van Badham supports Eleni

Fellow SlutWalk speaker Van Badham supports Eleni

Sex Party supporting #sexworkers (pictured in Federation Square)

Sex Party supporting #sexworkers (pictured in Federation Square)

It was great to see SlutWalk Melbourne once again providing a space for sex workers to speak out and push back against the all too common silencing that occurs against sex worker community.  It was even better to see Eleni rock it, fierce and proud talking about her life and work!

Full text of Eleni’s speech:

_______________________________________

Hi, my name is ‘Leni and I am a member of Vixen Collective. I want to thank the organisers of SlutWalk for having me speak here today And I want to thank you all for listening. I mean that sincerely. You know it’s really something to stand here as a sex worker and talk. And be heard. Because yes, I am a sex worker, have been on and off for the past 30 odd years.

But as a sex worker I usually get silenced, misunderstood and misinterpreted. In effect, I get shut down. I get shut down by slut shamers as promiscuous at best or I’m met with claims that I must have mental health issues at worst – which I do by the way. But that in no way means I can’t make decisions about what I wear, or what I do for work. Which for the past 14 years has included community work. Or that I should be silenced.

I’ve been shut down by victim blamers who claim as a victim of childhood sexual and physical abuse, I don’t get a say about how I run my life. That I can’t know what’s good for me. That I will have to have others speak for me for the rest of my life.

Well let me tell you. No way. Not today. Today I’m going to have my say.

Yes I was once a child who was subjected to violence. But that fact does not explain nor disqualify me from making the decision to become and continue to be a sex worker. How dare those slut shamers and victim blamers state that it does!

I’m insulted by this attitude because I see myself as a 46 year old woman who has done quite well for herself despite her upbringing and obstacles faced along the way.

With the help of sex work I have managed to travel extensively, finish high school and put myself through Uni, bought my home, my car and have begun an investment portfolio.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my life has been a breeze but I’ve worked damn hard at keeping my life the way I want it. I now consider myself not a survivor but a thriver of what life had to throw at me. I deserve credit not silencing!

The most recent event where I was silenced by slut shamers and victim blamers was at the last Amnesty International National Human Rights Forum and AGM where they would decide which stance to take on sex work. I saw them at their worst. These so-called feminists (who are just women with middle class values) used antics that were absolutely vile, deplorable and inexcusable!

They insulted us by referring to us as “prostitutes”, our industry as “prostitution” and our bodies as “prostituted”. They attempted, unsuccessfully, to have us evicted from the proceedings. They resorted to name calling and bullying. It was ugly!

It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this.

And it unfortunately won’t be the last. Beware of women with middle class values – they’re an arm of the patriarchy. It’s bad enough when men tell me what I can and can’t do with my body, well it’s no more acceptable when women do it!

They may say that I am selling my body; well you know what? I still have it – I’m selling a service.

They may say I’m mentally ill; I say even the mentally ill have jobs, even the mentally ill have rights.

They may say I’m an immoral woman; I say more power to me.

They may say I need help; I say from what?

They may say it’s only temporary work; I say 30 years, temporary?

They may say that I am broken; I say how? And wouldn’t I know?

They may say what they like.

But do you know what I say? Stop talking about me. Stop talking about sex workers and start listening to us!

So I thank the organisers of SlutWalk for giving me the space to stand here as a sex worker and talk. Loud and Proud.

Because I will not be silenced!

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.

ID2EVASW – Rally at Melbourne State Library

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers in Melbourne begins in St Kilda – ID2EVASW – Rally in St Kilda

Later across town, at a rally organised by individual sex workers, Ryan is speaking again alongside sex workers Nada and myself.  I have received a call indicating media will be attending and we find and introduce ourselves to Simon Lauder from the ABC and arrange for him to wait until after the speeches to talk to people, explaining that it is preferred that sex workers who want to talk approach him rather than him going up to those that who may not wish to be approached.

Central points of the speeches that will soon become relevant in terms of our media presense are:
a) that non-sex workers trying to speak on behalf of sex workers constitute a form of violence
b) advocating a regulatory model that harms sex workers is also a form of violence
c) abolitionists or proponents of the Nordic or Swedish Model are engaging in violence against sex workers (as the Nordic or Swedish Model has been shown to harm sex workers)

Immediately after the speeches, a sex worker comes up to me to say “I think two members of Project Respect are talking to the ABC guy”. 

Note – ‘Project Respect’ referred to colloquially as ‘Project disRespect’ by many sex workers is a known abolitionist group that seeks to ‘save’ sex workers by eliminating our right to work.  I go to investigate…  I discover that a man and a woman saying they are Australians – who just happen to have lived in Sweden, who just happen to be back in Australia, who just happen to love the Swedish Model, who just happen to be walking past when our rally was on, who thought they would come and talk to the ABC guy…  Yeah right.

What they don’t realise is that the ABC is still recording during our ‘discussion’ (I don’t realise at the time either).  What happens next shows proponents of the Swedish model for what they are – people who are actually deeply uncaring, even hostile as to the voices and human rights of sex workers:

Sex workers take fight against criminalisation to the streets

But the main point of all this, is that it is sex workers voices – that need to be heard, so in honouring that I have sought permission and reproduce here the full text of all three speeches from the Melbourne State Library – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Rally:

Speaker 1 – Ryan

Speaker 2 – Jane

Speaker 3 – Nada

Link to the speeches as recorded on Vimeo, due to fading light the videographer (third speaker Nada) has edited herself out, but we’re trying to convince her to reverse this decision…:

Note:

When the ABC picks this up nationally (the above link ‘Sex workers take fight against criminalisation to the streets’ is ABC 774) the transcript of the conversation between myself and the alleged Project disRespect member will be edited to remove the section where they start using whorephobic language, but not in the sound file.  It does however change the tone of the story if you don’t listen to the sound file.  ie in one story you get the context that the guy was a rude whorephobic dick, in the other you don’t.

Sex workers take fight against criminalisation to Melbourne’s streets