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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Lancet report: Support sex workers to prevent HIV

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

FODI are on Twitter at @IdeasattheHouse

FODI are on Facebook as Ideas at the House – Facebook

St James Ethics Centre are on Twitter at @stjamesethics

 

Updates provided when available, as usual…

 

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

Sex workers protest ‘Ugly Mugs’ at Griffin Theatre in Sydney

Theatre goers leaving the play ‘Ugly Mugs’, now on at Griffin Theatre in Sydney, were met last night by sex workers protesting the exploitative “pity porn” narrative of the play.  Handing out leaflets titled ‘We Hope Our “Lives” Entertained You’ sex workers challenged members of the departing audience to stop and talk about what sex work is really like and to discuss the problematic nature of the play.

A sex worker who had attended the play that evening described the work as “..just another dead hooker on a slab..” and said they were “..glad to be near an exit..” due to the high levels of distress the autopsy scene caused them (NSW sex worker).

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Sex workers who came to protest stayed for more than an hour talking to departing theatre goers, answering questions and challenging the misconceptions that arise when non sex workers attempt to speak out on sex work.  More than 30 people stayed to discuss the play with sex workers after attending, some visibly moved after learning that the play was ‘inspired’ by sex workers confidential accounts of rape, violence and trauma, accessed by a non sex worker from a closed sex worker only resource.

Over the last few days sex workers have called for Griffin, Malthouse and Peta Brady to hear their concerns and respond.  Griffin, earlier this week, issued a self serving statement that dismisses rather than addresses the issues outlined by sex workers.  They are still not listening.

“..For Peta Brady to get hold of copies and use them as the title, props and content for a play, including readings from editions of the publication, is a gross abuse of the trust she gained as an outreach worker NOT a sex worker.
How is this play anything other than an insult to sex workers who have built systems of support against the barriers created by bad laws, poor policing and society’s stigma and discrimination?
The Griffin Theatre, the audience, and critics but particularly the author should see this for what it is – a gross invasion of privacy and a misguided grab for publicity through the claim of “authenticity”.
If the play were based on case notes transcribed while working at Lifeline would that be acceptable? Who is the owner of the Intellectual Property and the title? Not Peta Brady, that’s for sure.”

Maria McMahon, Editor of Ugly Mugs, Prostitutes Collective Victoria, 1993-1997, and SWOP 1997-2006

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“..I am outraged by the potential harms using this list as ‘entertainment’ might cause to sex workers. It was never ever meant for public consumption and/or ‘entertainment’ as Brady has used and abused it. Even if Brady says she hasn’t used word for word verbatim from the UGL she still asked for updates of UM Lists from NSW when her victim pawn production was coming to Sydney. ..It is not about not writing about human life experiences. This is simply about misappropriation and exploitation of vulnerable people. The author Peta Brady was in a position of trust working with very marginalised women who had experienced harm at the hands of what we in the sex industry termed all these decades ago “Ugly Mugs”. Brady has made a living off sex worker ‘tragedy’ and now she is making more money off ticket sales of her ‘victim porn’ play. We are not fodder for entertainment.

Julie Bates, Co-Founder of Ugly Mugs, Prostitutes Collective NSW circa 1985

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Sex work is work and sex worker speak for themselves.

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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.

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Want to get more background on this? –

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

Read ‘Ugly Mugs – I am not your victim’

Ugly Mugs – I am not your victim

Ugly Mugs is a play written by a non sex worker about sex workers lives, containing the misinformation and stigma one would expect to result from someone writing about a life they have not lived.  The main character is the nameless “working girl”, played by Peta Brady herself.  Brady in her role as a health outreach worker accessed sex workers accounts of rape, violence and trauma via a closed sex worker only publication and then used this as ‘inspiration’ for her work.  In the play itself one of the characters reads aloud onstage from the closed sex worker only publication of the same name (see picture).

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

UMonstage

So what has the response been from Peta Brady and the Griffin Theatre?

Originally when approached by concerned sex workers after the play moved from Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre to Sydney’s Griffin they asked for a copy of the local Ugly Mugs publication for “publicity purposes”.  Indicating quite clearly that they had either completely failed to listen to sex workers concerns, didn’t care, or both.

Now that sex workers have raised concerns on social media and they actually have to be accountable in public?

Griffin Theatre have posted a response failing to address most of the key points in the original blog but instead emphasizing that:

1) The “entire play is a fictional work”

2) Refering to the pamphlet the character pictured above reads from “It is not a real copy of an Ugly Mugs issue”

Well, I completely agree on count 1 and that’s what we’re complaining about – when writing about the lives of sex workers as a non sex worker you get it wrong, because you are not speaking from lived experience.  This is disturbing to sex workers as a marginalized group because we do not need our lives explained to us, we do not need or want to be rescued from our work.  What I want as a sex worker is to have my human rights, my labour rights, recognised.

On point 2, check the photo.  Your denials don’t mean much to Melbourne sex workers when we recognise what’s in his hand.

A reference is made to sex workers (in previously publicity the term “working girls” was used) seeing the play in rehearsals, but Vixen Collective (Victoria’s Peer Only Sex Worker Organisation) met with Malthouse and provided feedback while the play was still in rehearsal and our concerns were ignored.

Griffin also says in reference to Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) “suggested that if they felt the differences, or localised issues, needed to be further addressed, we would be happy to collaborate by providing a platform through the media, a public forum or online publication”.

Well it’s not every day the Australian Sex Workers Association gets suggestions on how to do it’s work from non sex workers putting on a highly problematic play..  I guess we better take that seriously then?  The meeting was for you to listen to our concerns, but obviously you missed the point of that.

You are still not listening.

You say – “We believe that this play describes violence not to glamorise it as entertainment, nor to create ‘pity’ for the ‘victims’”

Let me be clear: since you have not lived my life, you cannot describe it.

Let be be clearer still: you have no right to access the private accounts of rape, violence and trauma of my community and recycle these as entertainment, no matter how you attempt to justify it.

Listen: I am not your victim.  You do not speak for me.

#uglymugs #iamnotyourvictim

Want to read the Griffin’s excuses?

 

** Updated to include current media coverage as of 8:00pm EST 13th Aug 2014 **

Sex workers accuse Griffin, Malthouse of exploitation – Arts Hub

Sex workers accuse playwright of exploitation – Daily Review (Crikey)

Ugly Mugs & the politics of representation – ABC Arts Critic Alison Croggon (on Storify)

Sex worker union member attacks Peta Brady play Ugly Mugs (Sydney Morning Herald) this story also ran in The Age, Brisbane Times and Canberra Times.

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).

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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.

Cromwell RE-BOOTED

It is the 17th of December, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, I am on a tram on my way to a rally when I get a text that begins “Hi Jane sorry to bother you if you know this already and if you don’t warning that its about Cromwell…”

It contains a link to a site called ‘Slate’ and mentions interior photos of Cromwell.

The story so far on Cromwell can be found first here MANORISMS & also here Cromwell Re-Visited

But the short version is that a Victorian sex industry workplace was closed with workers records and belongings inside, re-opened as an art gallery (with records and belongings still there), and then the exhibition cancelled after workers protests.  It’s been a highly traumatising process for the workers involved – compounded by persistent failures to communicate with workers, to treat their records/belongings or their work as anything other than some sort of sideshow.

This is probably why I react so strongly to the Slate article.  It includes so much stigmatizing language I don’t know where to start.  I am mystified that Christian Pearson (the photographer) is talking like this.  Did StrEAT not contact this person and explain the situation after the exhibition closed?

Pearson begins the article by mentioning (& linking to) an Arts Hub interview suggesting that Cromwell was “abandoned”.  Actually that’s a LIE, workers were locked out.  But I guess that’s not as interesting as suggesting that Cromwell is the Marie Celeste of brothels?  Also interesting is the fact that Arts Hub have removed my original comment on their article pointing to my Blog posts on the subject…

Pearson continues the Marie Celeste motif saying Cromwell is “frozen in time”.  Talking about “cigarettes..left in ashtrays”, “sheets..dormant in dryers”.  Holy cow!  You can find both of those things in my house at the moment but it’s in no way “abandoned”.

There’s an extended bit about how freaked out Pearson is to be in alone in the building, that they “felt a sense of dislocation from my own reality”.  Seriously?  I’d get that checked out if I was you.

Apparently “the rooms were full of easy-to-make gratuitous images”.  Is that a reference to the fact that sex used to happen there, for money?  Subtle.

But I think my least favourite bit is Pearson stating “he was determined to photograph the brothel in a way that did not place any judgment on the space” – well you know what?  That’s a FAIL.

Talking about my ex-workplace as some weird, scary fucked up place – divorced from the reality of what actually happened – which has now been brought to the attention of both StrEAT (the current lease holders) and RMIT (who were involved in the art exhibition) is actually extremely stigmatising.

I would seriously invite Christian Pearson to take the time to meet with some of the Cromwell workers and other Victorian sex workers who have been supporting us in dealing with this.

As usual I will report back to let you know whether I get taken up on this offer (& also on what StrEAT have to say about this…)

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

ID2EVASW – Nada’s Speech

SPEAKER 3 – NADA (reproduced with permission)/State Library – Melbourne

My name is Nada, and I am speaking as an  individual migrant sex worker.

When speaking about violence against sex workers, what comes to mind as a person who has been in the industry nearly 20 years is not trafficking or even labour violations and bad clients.

The trauma that I have personally experienced as a sex worker is police violence. This seem to ring true for many migrant workers across the globe. Many migrant workers have difficulties in staying within the legal sector of the industry especially in Victoria as the draconian sex work laws force women to register with the government – something most sex workers, let alone migrants are willing to do as this information can be easily be used against us. In migrant worker’s case, it could lead to arbitrary refusals of visas. When a sex worker is in the illegal sector of the industry, it makes the workers more vulnerable to violence as they are seen as easy targets to predators assuming that the person will be less likely to go to the authorities.

As a migrant sex worker, I also can not escape the racism of anti-trafficking movement such as the time when I attended Coalition Against Women In Trafficking when mostly well to do white people talked about Asian women as if we are all almost sex slaves that needs rescuing by westerners. This propaganda spread by those who wants to try to shut town the industry is in complete contrast to the opinion of sex work communities around the world reporting violent raids that are happening in brothels in the name of anti- trafficking and calling it “rescuing of sex slaves”. The people who are spreading propaganda using submissive Asian women stereotypes are usually radical feminists whose ideology states that any penetrative sex is violence against women and casts ALL SEX WORK as violence against women-  OR they are Christian Fundamentalists. Either way , these people who believe Asian women are nothing but victims and unable to help themselves without the aid of Westerners should not have ANYTHING to do with us and have no right to talk about us. Further, people who believe sex is inherently violent and has ideological issues with sex work should stay far far away from sex workers or anything to do with sex and certainly should NOT have the right to speak on behalf of sex workers. It is a fact that efforts towards abolition of sex work is proven to be in direct conflict with preserving the human rights and the safety of sex workers irregardless of why they may be in the industry

However, in Victoria, these radical feminists speaks on behalf of sex workers as if they are the authority on sex work and gets all the media attention and funding, they are professors teaching young people at Universities when in reality they are nothing but classist white academics theorizing about other people they have already judged as needing their help. They consistently silence peer based sex work organizations made only of workers which are inclusive of different types of sex workers, gender identities, ethnicities, and drug use – something these xenophobic, racist academics such as Sheila Jeffreys and her western neo-colonialist radical feminists can learn from.

Not only do these people who wish to abolish sex work such as the radical feminists get more air time than the sex workers, in Victoria, we have no funded peer based organisation. Instead, Victoria ignores our human rights by posing sex workers only as a public sexual health issue even though research shows that in decriminalised and legal environment, sex workers are proven to have less STI’s then the general population. The only funded sex work related organisation is a non-peer organisation that is called Resourcing Health and Education in the Sex Industry that claims to improve health of sex workers as if they are the ones to make changes within the industry. It is only the efforts of sex workers themselves that is keeping the industry’s low STI status despite the laws in Victoria of mandatory testing which goes against the recommendations by health organizations.   We also have another funded organisation that deals with sex workers  – it works like a rehabilitation centre for sex workers in the guise of saving trafficking victims ran by the radical feminists and consistently fuels racist false information about the sex industry to the press and they are called Project Respect. All the while ignoring the actual support we need for work safety.

This year we lost two women in Victoria in violent murder that could possibly have been deterred if there were better laws. One was a sex worker, another was not. Both their lives were equally valuable . Tom Meagher said on the day of sentencing of his wife’s murderer, “ I am aware his previous victims in previous cases before Jill were sex workers, and I’ll never be convinced that doesn’t have something to do with the lenience of his earlier sentence”

When sex work is seen as inherently violent as the radical feminists suggests, violence against sex workers are tolerated due to this very stigma. No assault or violence should be tolerated and no sex workers should experience this. We MUST end violence against sex workers NOW.

Tracy Connelly was murdered this year. I wonder if street based sex work were not illegal and police crack downs did not happen in Victoria, that it might have had positive impact on her life.

What we want is full decriminalisation of the industry. It is a model that all peer based sex work organisation recommends.  If you would like to directly do something for sex workers please fund a peer based sex work organisation rather than people that claims to speak on our behalf.