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

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.