Trans woman, sex worker – sent to mens prison in Western Australia

The latest news today on the case of a trans woman living with HIV, who is a sex worker, is that bail has been refused and she has been moved to a men’s prison in Western Australia.

“The court heard [name removed] was being supported by the Sex Workers Association which offered to provide a surety and accommodation should she be granted bail.
However Magistrate Paul Heaney refused bail saying the case was “unusual but very serious” and bail would be inappropriate.
[name removed] was remanded in custody and is due to appear in court again next month.”
– February 23rd 2016, ABC

“Outside court, People For Sex Worker Rights in WA spokeswoman Rebecca Davies told reporters [name removed] was distressed and the group was disappointed bail had been refused.
“We’re really disappointed and deeply concerned that a trans woman is being held in a male facility and we call on the WA government to do something to make sure this never happens to another trans woman ever again,” she said.
“Someone who identifies as a woman has been put in a male prison where they’re probably going to be subject to discrimination, possibly abuse from other prisoners, it’s just not a good scenario.”…”
– February 23rd 2016, WA Today

Quoted in the press on Saturday, local advocates voiced concerns about the treatment of the case in the media and the likelihood of a fair trial:

“…”We are here to support a fellow sex worker who is being vilified in the press,” PSWRWA president Rebecca Davies said.
“We are concerned that the person is not going to be given a fair trial … safer sex is the responsibility of everyone engaging in a sexual activity, not just one party.”…
Ms Davies also feared the case would reinforce the stigma against people living with HIV, saying the release of [name removed] personal health information was inappropriate.
“When we criminalise HIV, people stop getting tested. This is a public health issue, not a criminal one. WA needs to get with the times,” she said.” – February 20th 2016, ABC

This follows on from the woman being extradited last week from Sydney, where she was arrested over allegations of unprotected sex with a male client, resulting in charges of grievous bodily harm in Western Australia.
The woman’s lawyer informed the court in Perth today that the alleged victim was not a client but the two were instead in a consensual relationship.

While the case is not scheduled to return to court until next month sex worker organisation People for Sex Worker Rights in WA continue to advocate for the woman to be moved to a women’s prison and for the matter to be treated as a public health issue – not requiring criminal sanctions.

 

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For more, read the media release from People for Sex Worker Rights in WA, supplied by PSWRWA and re-printed with permission below:

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Media Release
People For Sex Worker Rights in Western Australia
19 February 2016

Allegations of HIV transmission have been made against a transgender person living with HIV, who was also a sex worker in Western Australia.

People for Sex Worker Rights in Western Australia, the peer-led advocacy group for sex workers in Western Australia, does not support criminalisation of consensual sexual activity, including when transmission of a sexually transmitted infection occurs. While we cannot comment on a case before the courts, we believe that sexual health should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one.

“Safer sex is the responsibility of everyone engaging in a sexual activity, not just one party,” said People For Sex Worker Rights in WA president Rebecca Davies.

“We have continually seen, both within Australia and globally, that prosecuting people for cases of this nature result in poorer public health outcomes, and a reduction in people going in for sexual health testing. UNAIDS has raised concerns that such criminal laws create disincentives to testing, create a false sense of security for those who believe themselves to be HIV-negative, reinforce stigma against people living with HIV, and result in selective prosecution of people with HIV among otherwise marginalised communities. We share these concerns.”

“It has been extremely disappointing to see the media actively encouraging stigma towards people living with HIV, transgender women and sex workers in their reporting of this case. Such reporting only serves to create fear and misinformation, when it should highlight the need for drastic improvement in public sexual health education.

“We are also extremely disappointed to see repeated transphobic reporting towards the sex worker concerned, including referring to a woman as “male”, using incorrect pronouns, and reporting of her birth name. There can be no justification for such transphobic coverage in 2016.”

“The sexual health of sex workers in Australia has repeatedly been shown to be as good as, if not better than, the general population. A public health-focused response centred on peer education and harm reduction is a far better means of promoting sexual health than harmful measures of criminalisation. We suggest that pouring funds into policing measures while simultaneously seeing funding cuts to sexual health services around Australia is deeply counterproductive.”

Contact:
Rebecca Davies
President, People For Sex Worker Rights in WA
Ph: 0451 984 211
rebecca.davies.rd@hotmail.com

To download the media release as a PDF click here – PSWRWA Media Release – 2016 Feb 19

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Support CJ (preferred name of worker) during her case:

“Every dollar raised from this GoFundMe will go towards ensuring CJ can have her family around her and meeting her direct needs in prison. We may not be able to keep her out of male prison today, but we can at least ensure that she has as much support around her from those closest to her as possible while we campaign to have her moved.”

Click here to visit the GoFundMe and donate – Support CJ Trans Sex Worker

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Want to keep informed and support People for Sex Worker Rights in WA during this case?

Follow PSWRWA on twitter here – @sexworkrightswa

Visit PSWRWA’s Website here – sexworkerrightswa.org

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Media Links

Safety fears for transgender woman in solitary confinement in men’s prison

HIV is a Public Health Issue Not A Crime Say Advocates – Gay News Network

Reports of alleged HIV transmission by WA sex worker highlight stigma

NAPWA, SWOP NSW, Scarlet Alliance, WA AIDS Council, Magenta “HIV transmission should be about public health, not criminal law”

Stand with Monica Jones

Image via Cam Cox

Image via Cam Cox

Melbourne Protest

Melbourne Protest

Monica Jones, African American trans woman, activist and student, has been held in Villawood immigration detention centre in Australia since Friday the 28th of November with no access to visitation rights.

Monica has been a vocal advocate for the rights of people of colour, trans* people and sex workers, including in Phoenix where she has protested the targeting and profiling of vulnerable communities by Project Rose. It was the night after one of these protests that Monica was arrested by police and prosecuted, leading to the ‘We stand with Monica Jones‘ campaign.

In the US, people of colour and trans women are disproportionately affected by HIV. Monica had hoped to learn from the successes of Australia’s response to HIV, in particular those by peer led sex worker organisations and community led responses, internationally recognised as a success.

Monica’s advocacy work will be significantly facilitated by the completion of her student placement, where she plans to work as a social worker for her community after graduation.

Monica is being restricted entry to Australia in order to complete the 3 weeks remaining on her student placement after which she has a return ticket home to the U.S.A. Monica is in her 4th and final year of her social work degree. Without completion of her final 3 weeks of her student placement, Monica will fail this semester.

Monica wishes to highlight the stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers, trans women and people of colour that may have led to her profiling at the border and subsequent detention. On World AIDS Day it is important to recognise that it is stigma and discrimination that fuels the HIV epidemic.

Sex workers, trans* people and allies are protesting on Monday at 2pm at:
– Federal Law Courts in Sydney ** moved to John Madison Building in CBD at last minute ** where Monica’s case will be heard
– Immigration & Citizenship Service in Melbourne

Community members, activists and allies stand in solidarity with Monica to show the Australian Government that together we will not stand for racism, transphobia or whorephobia.

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**** Update on Court Proceedings and Media Coverage, late on Monday Dec 1st 2014 ****

Even after a last minute change in venue for the court proceedings in Sydney, more than 50 supporters came to #standwithMonica – causing the court to have to relocate to a larger room and find more chairs to accommodate everyone.

Supporters reported that Monica was misgendered by the state representative on more than one occasion.  It became apparent that Australian border authorities were waiting for Monica on re-entry and that a film crew from the Channel 7 television show ‘Border Security‘ were present, having been tipped off in advance.

It was stated in court that Monica was on the list of those considered a “possible threat to Australia”, but without reference or explanation as to why the Australian government consider this to be the case.

When it became apparent that Monica faced a minimum of another week and a half in immigration detention – even if successful in her case – Monica made the decision to return to the U.S.A. and to fight the case from there via video link.

For more information, refer to Australian media coverage:

Interview on The Wire with Jules Kim, Monica’s field supervisor in her placement with Scarlet Alliance:


Lateline – Monia Jones Fights Deportation

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Want to show solidarity?

On Twitter – use the hashtag #standwithMonica

MJ_Syd001

Sydney Protest

(thanks to Elena Jeffreys for co-authoring this post)

Why we should all get to choose when/if we get an HIV test, yes even me.

sex_work_is_work

So this week I went to hospital.  Let’s be clear – I hate hospital.  I don’t like being stuck in one place, following often pointless (no smoking) rules, or answering to people who treat me like an object rather than a person.  If I’m really sick I’ll go.  But I have to be really sick.

So this week I get a migraine.  Not unusual.  I have had migraines regularly since I was a teenager.  Never been hospitalised for one.  But this one just kept getting worse, beyond anything I have ever had.  Until I am lying on the floor unable to move and a friend called an ambulance.  So I go to hospital.  The hospital pumps me full of medication (including largactil) that while it did not eliminate, helped the pain.  The medication also rendered me inarticulate, easily confused and clumsy – basically it made me ‘high’.  This will become important later.  Because it means I lost the ability to conceal certain facts about myself.

I am a sex worker.  Often I cannot conceal this fact in medical settings.  As a Victorian sex worker I am subject to mandatory sexual health testing once every three months – regardless of the fact that over twenty years of medical research in Australia (click here to download latest research findings) shows that sex workers have lower rates of STI’s than the general public and higher compliance in prophylaxis use (condoms!).  Because I have had interactions with police (no kidding my job used to be illegal) and medical staff, it is written into some of my medical records that I am a sex worker.  If I am in a setting where these records are accessed then I have no choice about my status as a sex worker being part of any conversation.  It is usually a big part of the conversation.

But I did not expect my status as a sex worker to be part of the conversation when I was in hospital this week.  No prior hospital records or medical records had been accessed.  No other doctors had been called.  I was simply a patient presenting with a migraine.

Then the hospital got me ‘high’, legally high of course, and one of the neurology staff asked “so what do you do?”.  And that was it.  All my usual answers went unused; that I work for a NGO (also true), that I am self employed (just leaving out the “as a sex worker” part), that I work as a lobbyist (I talk to enough politicians that it feels like it).

Because if someone asks “what do you do?” when you’re high the natural reply is to tell the truth.  So I said – “I’m a sex worker” and proceeded to chat about it with them for 15 minutes.  Including when they asked “are people prejudice about it?”, I said “hell yes, all the time”.  But I probably wasn’t expecting them to give me a specific example of prejudice right then.  Which they did.

After our little chat the doctor wandered off for a few minutes then came back to say – “so now we’ve realised that we need to do an HIV test on you” and I asked “this is because I told you I’m a sex worker isn’t it?” and they replied (looking embarrassed) “uh, yeah”.  I then stated “well I suppose what I want doesn’t really matter at this point?” and at that the doctor looked away.

Problems with this:

1) I was not in a state to make or be able to give informed consent to being STI/HIV tested

2) That (1) being the case this constitutes a forced STI/HIV test

3) Given that there is HIV criminalisation for sex workers in Victoria this puts me or any other sex worker treated in this manner in a position of potential instant criminalisation.

This is yet another example of the stigma and discrimination that sex workers live with daily.  But it is not just another example.  Medical professionals have power in society generally – over individual patients lives, through professional associations, through their status as a doctor – but in Victoria the State gives immense power to medical professionals over the lives of sex workers.  Power to test sex workers for STI’s/HIV – despite knowing we have demonstrably lower rates than the general population.  Power to prevent sex workers from working if we test positive – despite knowing condom compliance rates in the sex industry exceed 99% and that not all sex work involves “sex”.  Finally, power to cause sex workers to be jailed for testing positive to HIV as a sex worker (a strategy which demonstrably discourages STI/HIV testing).

This is not okay.

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Want to join me in telling the Victorian Government it’s not okay?

Email the Victorian Health Minister – David Davis – david.davis@parliament.vic.gov.au

Feel free to include a link to this Blog (or not) and make sure to note that sex workers should have the same rights, human rights, labour rights and access to health care and right to refuse health care and testing as other members of the community.