Join the Online Protest! – “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference

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On the 9th and 10th of April 2016 an anti sex work conference called the “World’s Oldest Oppression” is being held in Melbourne, Australia.  Hosted by RMIT University, and billed as a “2 Day Anti Sex Trade Conference” for a “World Free of Sex Trade Abuse”.

The conference brings together anti sex work figures such as Julie Bindel, Rachel Moran, Dr Caroline Norma, Melinda Tankard Reist and others.

Despite the fact that sex workers, sex worker’s representative organisations around the world, human rights organisations and allies all call for the full decriminalisation of sex work for sex workers’ health and safety – anti sex work groups (such as those represented at this conference) continue to call for the criminalisation of our work, and attempt to silence our voices.

Join sex workers in protesting!

**Thinking of joining the online campaign?  Do you have an anonymous Twitter/Facebook/Email account?  Please consider your safety/anonymity in your protest activities**

 

Write to RMIT:

You can write to RMIT to express concerns about the Conference to the University Chancellor, Ziggy Switkowski at:

Email – chancellor@rmit.edu.au
& Email to ombuds@rmit.edu.au as well

 

Take action online:

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

 

Promote the online protest!

  • Talk to other people you know that support sex worker rights and encourage them to participate
  • Spread the word on social media – Twitter, Facebook, everywhere – let people know to join the online protest
  • Post the ‘Join In Online Protest’ flyer in your workplace

 

Will there be action/protest happening in Melbourne during the conference?

This is yet to be decided – watch the social media spaces of Vixen Collective to be kept up to date:

Twitter: @VixenCollective

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/32794381768/

 

Looking for info when arguing with anti’s or debunking their arguments?  Check out ‘A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online’

To download the ‘Join In Online Protest’ flyer, click here > WOO_GeneralFlyer

Victorian Greens promote hate speech at LGBTIQ Event

Photo by Difficult Debby

Photo by Difficult Debby

On Thursday night this week sex workers, including queer sex workers, arrived to protest a Greens LGBTIQ event where Greens candidate for Richmond Kathleen Maltzahn was speaking.  ‘Out and About: Rainbow Tales from the Green streets’, a “fabulous evening of story-slamming, music and politics” held in Fitzroy, included attendance by political figures such as Senator Janet Rice, Sue Pennicuik MLC and Sean Mulcahy, Greens Candidate for Bentleigh.

Kathleen Maltzahn, founder of Project Respect a rescue organisation that has called for the “re-criminalisation of the sex industry”, and someone who has been described in The Australian as intending to “take the regulated prostitution industry and make it illegal again, as it was in the 1950s” has a history of problematic speech on sex work, specifically her position on the Swedish Model.

The Swedish Model, basically criminalisation of sex work by another name, has pushed sex workers underground in Sweden, increased harassment of workers (as well as a raft of other problems) and been completely ineffective in it’s stated goal – reducing the size of the industry.  It is predicated on the idea that all sex work is inherently violent and non consensual, erases the lives of male and trans* workers, and denies sex worker’s bodily autonomy and agency.

Unsurprisingly there was much discussion in sex worker community when the Victorian Greens again pre-selected Kathleen Maltzahn for the seat of Richmond in Victoria.  Federal Greens policy specifies that “An end to the criminalisation of consensual adult sex work” is required – if The Greens who so often stand on the moral high ground and point out the inconsistencies of other parties/candidates positions feel this is okay one wonders what next?

And let’s be clear here, Kathleen Maltzahn would, under the Swedish Model (as it is implemented in Sweden):

Remove my right to work safely in a range of workplaces by criminalising my clients, pushing the industry underground
If I work with another worker make it possible to charge us both with pimping each other
Make it illegal to provide accommodation to me as a sex worker (potentially leading to homelessness)
– Make it so than I cannot as a sex worker advertise my services
Criminalise everyone around me, so my partner or any adult children/relatives can be charged with ‘living off the earnings’ of sex work
– Make it so that I cannot hire drivers, receptionists or security
– Increase police involvement in my work and life, increase police corruption and lower my access to assistance when a victim of crime and to justice

This is all is the name of ‘saving me’.  This is not ‘saving me’.  This is executing a moral agenda against my community – to remove my right to work safely, suppress my human rights and silence my voice.

Victorian sex workers attending Thursday nights event were not silent.  Although interestingly The Greens, a party with a history of protest themselves, instructed sex workers attending that they could not speak.  I was filled in on the activities at the protest by sex workers who were there (as I was out of Melbourne), only to hear that an organiser for The Greens had told the protesters (who had permission from the venue to be there):

“..we’re not going to allow for this to happen .. not going to allow you to speak .. you can hand out your stuff and go ..”

Despite this attempt at silencing dissent, several sex workers stood from the audience and spoke briefly at the start.  Workers rose and turned their backs when Kathleen Maltzahn was speaking (an action that has happened before in protest at Maltzahns’ hate speech).  Flyers were handed out to the crowd outlining the harms of the Swedish Model and detailing the preferred regulatory model for sex workers health and safety – decriminalisation – which removes criminal sanctions from the sex industry so that sex work is treated like any other work.  Workers also stayed for some time outside the venue and talked to members of the departing audience about sex worker rights and the harms the Swedish Model would introduce to our lives.

So what do we learn from this?  That The Greens are currently the party that would prefer for us to sit down, shut up or go away?  That it is alright to suppress the voices of marginalised people if they don’t align with your election platform?  Or maybe it’s that if the organisation you founded and the books you write make money off of sex workers and their work – it still doesn’t mean you have to listen to them?

As I have said before – arguments that deny sex workers human rights are NOT a difference of opinion, they are NOT a debate or an intellectual exercise, these arguments are about our LIVES and our ability to live them freely and safely – those that oppose our right to do so are engaging in WHOREPHOBIA, they are engaging in HATE SPEECH.

Please do not aid them in doing so.  If you are a voter in the seat of Richmond in Victoria – do not cast a vote for the Greens.  Pick another candidate – here’s the options:

Richmond Election Guide

If you want to tell the Victorian Greens what you think of their support of a candidate who actively silences marginalised people and endorses the Swedish Model which harms sex workers, then please do so here:

Victorian Greens on Twitter – @VictorianGreens

Victorian Greens on FaceBook

Contact the Victorian Greens on – office@vic.greens.org.au – or contact your local member of The Greens.

If you would like to feed back to Kathleen Maltzahn directly, do so here:

Kathleen Maltzahn on Twitter – @KPMaltzahn

Kathleen Maltzahn on FaceBook

____________________________________

UPDATE: Jane Gilmore has since covered this issue for the ABC, 11th Nov 2014 – Greens should take their sex work principles seriously

Sex Workers speak out despite exclusion at Festival of Dangerous Ideas

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The Festival of Dangerous Ideas’ scheduled line up of anti sex work speakers at the ‘Women for Sale’ panel yesterday was upstaged when a sex worker took the the place of one of the panelists, making it known that sex workers will not be silenced or excluded from discussions about their lives and work.

Panelist Elizabeth Pisani gave up her seat on the panel so that Jules Kim, sex worker and Acting CEO of Scarlet Allliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) could take to the stage and confront the whorephobic and abolitionist agenda of the discussion taking place.

Festival of Dangerous Ideas has this year provided a platform for anti sex work speakers (refer Sex Worker rights an idea too dangerous for Festival of Dangerous Ideas), people whose personal politics, desire to sell books and increase their social capital have lead to them promoting the Nordic or Swedish Model, a form of sex work abolition that would see sex workers right to work safely, access assistance in cases of violence & access justice greatly diminished.

Sex workers around the world call for Decriminalisation as the best practice regulatory model for sex workers health and safety, in June 2014 in Melbourne at the International Conference AIDS 2014, sex workers joined medical researchers and policy experts in calling for decriminalisation to combat both HIV and violence against sex workersLancet report: Support sex workers to prevent HIV.

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Zahra Stardust, sex worker, (pictured above), who came to protest had the following to say about #FODI (Festival of Dangerous Ideas) and their treatment of sex workers:

“The most disturbing aspect about the Women for Sale panel was the presentation of ideas that have been globally and scientifically proven as putting sex workers at real risk (indeed, danger) being positioned as polite, reasonable and interesting debate. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas exemplifies the total failure of ‘human rights’ and ‘progressive’ organisations to recognise oppression at its most obvious, and instead to engage in it frivolously and without accountability as something that is fashionable and will earn them ‘feminist’ credibility. This Festival of Dangerous Ideology uses sex work to sell out a session, then promotes the criminalisation of the people it seeks to protect.”

(Quoted with permission, Zahra Stardust, www.zahrastardust.com@ZahraStardust)

#FODI when approached back in June, had made their attitude of exclusion clear, refusing to allow sex workers access to speak about their own human rights, about their own lives.  This attitude of silencing a marginalised group became even worse on the day.

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Co-Founder and Co-Curator of the Festival Simon Longstaff remarked to the Guardian that “In my opinion what needed to be represented was a broad spectrum of opinion, which included the opinions of sex workers in Elizabeth Pisani who was able to articulate the opinions that sex workers hold..”.

#FODI defines a “broad spectrum” of opinion as not including any members of the marginalised group being spoken about, satisfied with selecting a non sex worker to “articulate” sex workers opinions.  #FODI were then upset when that person, Elizabeth Pisani, turned out to have better ethics than St James Ethics centre and #FODI, and gave their seat to a sex worker to speak out about sex workers own lives.

In the Guardian story Three sex workers stage protest at Festival of Dangerous Ideas Longstaff also goes on to say that “One of the conscious designs of the festival is that … there is opportunity for people to contribute in the Q&A..”, but although half an hour of Q&A had been advertised it was cut to approximately five minutes , two questions asked, a sex worker present being told she was not permitted to contribute a question because she knew a panelist.

As Zahra Stardust remarks:

“Guess what? Sex workers actually have expertise on these issues. We live them every day. But we are not being paid to speak at the Opera House. We are here because what is entertainment for you actually affects our lives. A seat at your table is the bare minimum sex workers deserve. If you came and sat on our table, you might recognise that police and NGOs are not our protectors. You might realise that no-one is standing up for our rights except us. At least this was not lost on the security guard who came up to me smiling after the panel to say my question was fantastic and he wished sex workers had more time to talk.

(Quoted with permission, Zahra Stardust, www.zahrastardust.com, @ZahraStardust)

The use of sex workers lives as a titillating topic to draw crowds and attention isn’t new – we see this frequently in media and the arts – what must always be challenged is any attempt to exclude sex workers from discussions about their own lives and human rights.  Discussions of sex workers as having “false consciousness” are simply another method of excluding the voices of marginalised people.  Attempts to identify sex workers as responsible for violence against all women as well as violence within sex work are simply methods of ‘victim blaming’.  Violence in sex work, like violence in society at large, will only be ended by addressing the perpetrators and systemic causes of that violence – such as criminalisation of sex work, stigma and discrimination against sex workers – not by eliminating sex workers right to work.

Sex work is work.  Most importantly, as always, listen to sex workers – sex workers are the experts on our lives.

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Still to come?  Panelists from ‘Women for Sale’ Lydia Cacho (author of ‘Slavery Inc’), Kajsa Ekis Ekman (author of ‘Being Bought and Being Sold’) and Alissa Nutting (author of ‘Unclean Jobs for Woman and Girls’) are on Q&A on the ABC tonight…

Guess what?  No sex worker has been asked or allowed to participate in the Q&A program.

Want to ask why Q&A doesn’t consider it relevant to have sex workers included, speaking about their own lives and rights, on a panel which includes speakers promoting an agenda that risks sex workers health and safety?  Submit a question here: Q&A ‘Ask A Question’

Hold @QandA accountable for not having a sex worker on their panel tonight:  Use twitter #QandA

Q&A are also promoting tonight’s show on Facebook at: Q&A on Facebook

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Sex workers protesting at #FODI – Jules Kim (Acting CEO of Scarlet Alliance), Zahra Stardust & Cam Cox

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.

ID2EVASW – Jane’s Speech

SPEAKER 2 – JANE/Rally at State Library – Melbourne

I am Jane Green, I am a sex worker.
I am a survivor of both sexual assault and physical violence.
I am speaking today as an individual sex worker, not as the representative of any organisation.

I do not speak for all sex workers, because no one can.
I speak from my own personal experience of sex work.
International day to end violence against sex workers can often seem to centre around either:
– talking about the violence sex workers can face, or
– talking about the fact that we don’t always or actually face as much violence as “people might think…”

TALKING ABOUT IT

Let me say this.
I should no more be pressured to talk about the violence I have faced in my work,

than to not talk about it.
I do not want to perform the details of past rapes, to get you to pay attention to my human rights.
I should not have to.

I am human, therefore I should get human rights, which as a sex worker I am denied.
I engage in labour, therefore I should get labour rights, which as a sex worker I am denied.
I should not have to make a case.

(No one should)

I should not have to win your sympathy.
And I should not have to act out a one person play of my past trauma to get it.
But neither should I be prevented from discussing violence I have faced because I feel I can only win my rights by presenting a perfect ‘happy hooker’ facade.

‘VIOLENCE’

The violence we face as sex workers is not only what it is commonly perceived to be,

by the public, or as portrayed in the media.

Beyond sexual and physical violence – we are subject to:
State violence, laws that fail to defend our human rights, or extend to us labour rights in our work.
Police violence, both directly (as an instrument of the state in enforcing discriminatory laws, and actual harassment/violence), and in failing to take seriously crimes committed against us.
Lack of ‘justice’ when crimes against us are not pursued in the criminal justice system, because we are seen as “less sympathetic” or “less likely to be believed” as victims.
Saviour groups, who claim sex workers require rescue rather than rights.
Abolitionists, conservative & radical feminist alike, believing their views on what I get to do with my body should have greater relevance than mine.
The media, who find a story in crimes again us, even in ‘rescue’ groups that want to save us, in abolitionists who want to speak on our behalf, but not when sex workers are speaking for themselves.

Well sex workers are able to speak for ourselves, & speaking for myself as a sex worker:
These are all forms of violence, but,
violence is NOT AN INHERENT PART OF OUR WORK
violence should never be an inherent part of any work.
In cases where rape & physical violence are committed against sex workers it should always be a sex workers personal choice what to do about that violence & sex workers should always have a range of choices:
– to access peer support
– to access outreach services
– to access police assistance
– to access & receive, justice
– to do so in privacy, be treated with respect & to have their CHOICE respected

Here in Victoria the very idea of accessing police when we are victims of violent crime is confronting enough,
But if sex workers are working outside of the licensing system, in the non compliant part of the industry,  then any rape or act of physical violence committed against them is doubly punitive,
Because if a sex worker in the non compliant part of the industry reaches out to the police for help:

The Victorian police will give no assurance to sex workers who are victims of rape or violent crime that they may not be charged, when reporting a crime of violence, simply because they are working outside of the regulatory system that already fails us.

No system that punishes you for reporting rape encourages you to do so.
This is simply another part of the licencing system, what is in effect – systemic violence – against sex workers by the Victorian government.

STOPPING VIOLENCE

So what can we actually do to stop violence against sex workers?

We must first understand that sex work does not exist in isolation. We live in a society that is permeated by rape culture. A culture that tolerates sexual violence and blames it’s victims.

Until and unless wider rape culture is addressed efforts to address such violence against sex workers cannot succeed.

Removing police as regulators so that that the people we go to for help are not the people who target and raid our industry, that would be a start.

Full DECRIMINALISATION of sex work, the understanding that sex workers require human rights and labour rights just as other citizens, that would be a start.

Working towards breaking down stigma and discrimination against sex workers, calling it out if and when it happens, that would be a start.

And when all of that is done?  What should the next step be?

ASK A SEX WORKER.

(because sex workers will be ready to tell you)