Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work!

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Vixen Collective, Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation
Media Release – Tuesday 15th September 2015

Vixen Collective, Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation, calls for the full decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria as a vital and urgent step that government must take for the health and safety of Victorian sex workers!

Decriminalisation is the removal of all criminal laws relating to the sex industry, allowing sex work to be regulated like any other business – this does not mean no regulation, but that the sex industry should be regulated like other businesses.

“Violence against sex workers happens not just because of individuals who choose to perpetuate violence, but because the laws governing sex work, and the way sex workers are viewed in our society allows it to.”
MJ – Victorian sex worker

The full decriminalisation of sex work is recognised as the worlds’ best practice model for sex industry regulation – by the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, Amnesty International, Australia’s HIV Strategy, multiple medical studies, and sex workers’ representative organisations across Australia and the world.

It is critical that the voices of sex workers be heard, in order for the rights of sex workers be recognised, and the safety of sex workers given protection by law.

” Stop talking about sex workers and start listening to us!”
Rahni Belle – Victorian sex worker

Victorian sex workers stand in solidarity with sex workers in New South Wales, as an Inquiry into the Regulation of Brothels in NSW places decriminalisation there under threat.

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We recognise full decriminalisation of sex work is the only acceptable model of regulation for sex workers’ human rights, labour rights, health and safety.

We ask the NSW Legislative Assembly Select Committee on the Regulation of Brothels recognise this also, and in doing so endorse retaining decriminalisation in NSW as the only acceptable outcome of the inquiry.

Signed in solidarity, and agreement of the above:

Jane Green, Media Liaison, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s Peer Only Sex Worker Organisation)

Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association)

Cameron Cox, CEO, Sex Workers Outreach Project New South Wales (SWOP-NSW)

Leanne Melling & Skye Ozanne, Sex Workers Outreach Project Northern Territory (SWOP-NT)

Renai Buchanan, Organiser, People for Sex Worker Rights Western Australia (PSR-WA)

Candi Forrest, Treasurer, Respect Inc (Support for Queensland Sex Workers)

Tarkwin Coles, President, Sex Worker Action Group – Gaining Empowerment, Rights & Recognition (SWAGGERR)

Lexxie Jury, Peer Education Officer, Sex Workers Outreach Project Australian Capital Territory (SWOP-ACT)

Sharon Jennings, Manager, South Australian Sex Industry Network (SIN)

Josephine Rayson, Acting Manager, Magenta (Sex Worker Support Project for Western Australia)

Resourcing health & EDucation (RhED), a program of Inner South Community Health (ISCHS)

Lucy Blake, Delegate, Nothing About Us Without Us (NAUWU)

Difficult Debby & Despo Debby, Members, Debby Doesn’t Do It For Free (Sex Worker Arts & Performance Collective)

Saul Isbister, President/Public Officer, Touching Base Inc

Fiona Patten, MLC for Northern Metropolitan (Victoria Parliament), Australian Sex Party

Simon Ruth, Chief Executive Officer, Victorian AIDS Council

Brent Allen, CEO, Living Positive Victoria

Jenny Kelsall, Executive Officer, Harm Reduction Victoria

Mark Stoové, Associate Professor, Burnet Institute Principal for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Burnet Institute

Dr Graham Brown, Snr Research Fellow, Aust. Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University

Rob Lake, Executive Director, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)

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For further media information/interviews, please contact – Jane Green, Vixen Collective Media Liaison: 0420 887 845

Click here to download Media Release as a PDF

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Want more information on the NSW Inquiry into the Regulation of Brothels?

‘Sex workers concerned about calls for changes in the way NSW brothels are regulated’ – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Why sex worker laws do not need changing’ – Alt Media

NSW Inquiry into the Regulation of Brothels – Public Submissions

Want to join the campaign to retain decriminalisation of sex work in NSW?

Sign and share the petition here: Save Decriminalisation in NSW for Sex Worker Health & Safety

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Want more information on Victorian sex workers calling for full decriminalisation of their work?

‘An Open Letter to Tom Meagher from St Kilda Street Based Sex Workers’ – Feminist Ire

‘Queer Sex Workers and Decriminalisation: The Key to Fighting Stigma’ – Star Observer

‘Reclaim the Night/Take Back the Night’ – Melbourne 2013

Want to join Victorian sex workers in campaigning for decriminalisation?

Follow Vixen Collective on Twitter here: @VixenCollective

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Click here for listing of Sex Worker Organisations in Australia

CROMWELL RE-VISITED

… this is a continuation of Mondays post ‘MANORISMS‘…

I am sitting in a sex workers bedroom not wanting to look at the stack of paperwork sitting on their bed.  Sex worker’s individual paperwork and medical information is here.  My own worker paperwork from Cromwell is here.

In an environment of prevailing whorephobia no-one should ever have this information.

Anyone, sex worker or not, would prefer that their personal and medical information is secured.

The worker whose bedroom I am sitting in, who is also an ex-Cromwell sex worker, found the records in an open cupboard in the Reception area of Cromwell, last Friday night at the ‘Manorisms’ exhibition opening.

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I listen as they describe their experience & show me photos that they took of the ‘exhibition’ –

  • an art ‘installation’ including a handmade knife, pieces of human skin (molded in latex), reproduction human bones, ‘instruments’ laid out on a table as if ready to dissect – in one of the rooms I used to work in
  • a shower unit in one of the rooms, where our names have been painted – having been accessed from records left at Cromwell – my name is there, my best friend’s name is there, the worker who is showing me this points out their name
  • one of the beds left ‘untouched’ as if to memorialize Cromwell, essentially fetishising both sex work and sex workers
  • a sex worker’s belongings left sitting out, accessible to anyone, on top of the lockers in the locker room
  • telephone numbers left taped up behind reception, visible and accessible to anyone in the space

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I go outside and smoke a cigarette, my hands are shaking.

We agree that all of the paperwork should be burned.

I call Consumer Affairs Victoria (as I did in June 2012 when Cromwell Manor closed). They advise they will look into it and get back to me.

I spend the day speaking to sex workers.  Online.  In person.  We talk about how angry we are.  We talk about our memories of Cromwell.  It is decided that a public statement is necessary, so I write a blog post.  A pretty restrained blog post given all of the above.  I call StrEAT & leave a message.

Then something happens.  StrEAT call back.

We have a tense conversation – I find myself stating several times “you must let go of the idea that what you have done is defensible, it is intrinsically whorephobic.  Admit that, admit you have made a mistake and we can begin to move on”  I say sex workers feel the exhibition must close, it is non negotiable.  I explain that any meeting is the first step in a process rather than simply a token gesture to make this go away.

We arrange to have a meeting.

We discuss all of the above issues.  We resolve some and make progress on others.  The names have been removed from the ‘installation’ listing sex workers names by the artist.

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StrEAT has closed the exhibition and it will remain closed.

We agree that we will need to meet again.

At the end of the meeting I thank StrEAT.

Why would an angry sex worker thank the organisation that committed a whorephobic act against their community?

Because they did two things that are necessary for progress when an individual or organisation has committed an act of whorephobia:

  • they LISTENED to sex workers
  • they acknowledged they had made a MISTAKE

These are not easy things to do.

People should listen to marginalised communities.  But they generally don’t.  StrEAT did.

It’s not easy to admit when you made a mistake.  StrEAT did.

StrEAT spent time working through the concepts with sex workers and spent time listening to our stories.

Am I still angry?  Hell yes.

There are still sex workers records that need to be handed back.  We have informed StrEAT that these need to be handed to Vixen (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation), so that they are under sex worker control.  Any sex workers that want to access their records should be able to do so (& do so via a peer organisation) and remaining records should be destroyed – by sex workers.

There is still the issue of the breach of privacy, for which there is now a RMIT ethics complaint in progress.

There is the matter of what will happen with the current site & the ‘artworks’, even though it is not re-opening as an Art Gallery prior to re-development.

There is much yet to discuss, but importantly – sex workers are part of the discussion.

Where sex work is the topic – sex workers should ALWAYS be part of the discussion.

To borrow a phrase from NSW sex worker organisation, NAUWU (who hopefully won’t mind):

NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!