RMIT plays host to hate (again)

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On the 27th and 28th of July a conference called “Australian Summit Against Sexual Exploitation” (ASASE) is being held in Melbourne, Australia.  Hosted by RMIT University it is billed as exposing the “seamless connection between sexual exploitation in the following areas: Pornography, Objectification in advertising, Sex Trafficking/Prostitution, Child Sexual Exploitation”.

The conference brings together speakers well known for whorephobic, transphobic, homophobic and Islamophobic views, as well as opponents of abortion rights, safe schools, marriage equality and surrogacy.

Speakers include:
Julie Bindel
Melinda Tankard Reist
Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins
Caitlin Roper
Simone Watson

Supporting organisations are listed as – Bravehearts, Centre for Human Dignity, Children of Phoenix, Collective Shout, Destiny Rescue, Pink Cross Foundation Australia, Rahab, Spinifex Press, Salvos Cupcake Team, The JAM Network and Women’s Forum Australia.

Why Protest?

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’ rights, 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.
This conference includes speakers that oppose the rights and safety of many marginalised people – all people deserve to have our human rights recognised – join us in raising our concerns about this event!

Join us 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**

Take action online:

Use the hashtags #RightsNotRescue and #sexwork

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

Write to RMIT:

  • You can write to RMIT to express concerns about the Conference to the University Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean at:
  • Email – vc@rmit.edu.au
    & Email to ombuds@rmit.edu.au as well

Promote the online protest!

  • Talk to other people you know that support the rights of marginalised people and encourage them to participate
  • Spread the word on social media – Twitter, Facebook, everywhere – let people know to join the online protest

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

YES, a coalition of sex workers and trans people have organised a protest for Saturday the 28th of July, details here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/285614115321860/

Also, keep an eye on Vixen Collective’s Twitter
Twitter: @VixenCollective
And: @ASASEProtest on Twitter

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

What to know about the history of RMIT hosting #hatespeech ?
The Sound of Silencing Sex Workers
“Pieces of meat” and Balance in Journalism

Rape and the “un-chaste” victim in Victoria

 

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On 26th March 2015 notorious rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was convicted of the rape of a sex worker.  On Wednesday 13th July 2016 the Victorian Court of Appeal quashed Bayley’s conviction, on the basis of the identification, made by the victim after seeing Bayley’s picture on FaceBook in a post relating to Jill Meagher’s murder.  Crime Victims Support Association President Noel McNamara called the decision “disgusting” and said it tells victims “they don’t get fair treatment in the courts”.

Is this really even news?  Reporting rape to police, going through the court process, is deeply unpleasant.  Name suppression should be automatic for survivors of rape – but it isn’t.  A survivor’s sexual history shouldn’t be admissible in court – but is.  Prior medical and counseling records shouldn’t be allowed as evidence – but are.

I am a current sex worker.  I have been raped.  I have never made a report to police.  In Victoria, under the licensing system, police are the regulators of sex work.  But police are not the people you reach out to for help when they regulate your work.  If we are working as street based sex workers or outside the licensing system, we can be charged for this when we report crimes committed against us.  Police continue to talk up the fact that they can “exercise discretion” over whether to charge sex workers in these cases.  Please understand, your “discretion” does not comfort us.  We need the same rights as other members of the public.  In the Adrian Bayley case alone there were at least ten other sex workers who did not trust police enough to give evidence.

In court we face being questioned about our work – judged and treated unfairly – in addition to the already traumatic questioning survivors of rape face.  When rape cases involving sex workers are reported in media, the focus will almost always be our occupation.

Even if there is a conviction, Victorian sentencing guidelines allow for judges to give lesser sentences to offenders that rape sex workers, as rape would not cause:

(the) “reaction of revulsion which it might cause in a chaste woman”

If it sounds like these guidelines date back to the turn of the century, it’s worth pointing out the cases the guidelines are based on are from 1981 (Harris) and 1991 (Harkopian) [1].

Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation) has made numerous submissions to the Victorian Government asking to have these profoundly offensive sentencing guidelines overturned – the government has yet to respond to or act on these recommendations.

Each time a sex worker receives unfair treatment at the hands of police, each case where an offender walks away unpunished, every time a rapist receives a short sentence, where victims and our community are placed on trial in the media – all are another red light to sex workers telling us we cannot get justice in Victoria.

In February this year, Vixen Collective recommended that the Victorian Government decriminalise sex work – a step that would have provided better access to police and justice – but a step that was not taken.  In doing so the government ignored not only Victorian sex workers, but the policy advice of every peer sex worker organisation in Australia, the United Nations[i], World Health Organisation[ii], Amnesty International[iii] and other organisations too numerous to mention[iv].

The Victorian justice system should do better for all survivors of rape and we should fight for it to be improved together.  But right now sex workers are shut out from even the limited justice on offer to other survivors.

It’s time for the Victorian Government to start listening to sex workers and do something about it.

 

NOTE: this opinion editorial is endorsed by Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation)

 

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WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?

Listen to sex workers.  We are the experts on our lives and work.

What can you do right now?
In late 2015 the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) ran a review into ‘The Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process’.  As part of this process Vixen Collective raised the many issues sex workers face in accessing assistance from police and accessing justice in Victoria, including Victorian sentencing guidelines permitting judges to give reduced sentences to offenders that rape sex workers – guidelines that influence attitudes towards our community in the courts even when not officially applied.
NB – The Commission will report by the 1st of September 2016.
Join us in reminding the VLRC to address justice for sex workers in Victoria by:
Contacting the VLRC on twitter at – @VicLawReform
Emailing the VLRC at – law.reform@lawreform.vic.gov.au

What can you do in the future?
Sex workers peer (sex worker only) representative organisations in Australia call for the decriminalisation of sex work for sex workers health and safety, click here to see a list of peer sex worker organisations around Australia – visit their websites and follow their social media to see how to support sex workers in your local area.

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REFERENCES:

[i] 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.
‘Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific’, United Nations, 2012, pg.21-31. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/hivaids/English/HIV-2012-SexWorkAndLaw.pdf

[ii] Countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.”, Consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations, World Health Organisation, July 2014, pg.91.

[iii] Global movement votes to adopt policy to protect human rights of sex workers, Amnesty International, 11 August 2015.

[iv] Other organisations that support the decriminalisation of sex work include (for example):

Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP)
“NSWP membership comprises 237 sex worker-led organisations in 71 countries around the globe, including local organisations as well as national and regional networks. Our regional networks in the global south and global north represent many thousands of sex workers who actively oppose the criminalisation and other legal oppression of sex work.”,  ‘Why decriminalise sex work’, Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), Open Democracy, 30th July 2015, https://www.opendemocracy.net/beyondslavery/global-network-of-sex-work-projects/why-decriminalise-sex-work

Australia’s National HIV Strategy
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Sixth National HIV Strategy 2010-2013, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2010 at 6.4.

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)
“We know from them that the decriminalisation of sex work is the only way to ensure that sex workers are able to work in safety and be protected from violence and exploitation. … Often, sex workers and their clients are best positioned to detect and report cases of human trafficking or exploitative labour situations. This can only happen in a decriminalised environment, where neither party is afraid of prosecution.”, ‘Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women – Submission to Scotland Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work’

Global Commission on HIV and the Law
“Decriminalization is the first step towards better working conditions…”, Global Commission on HIV and the Law – Risks, Rights and Health, Global Commission on HIV and the Law, July 2012, pg.40.

Human Rights Watch
‘Human Rights Watch World Report 2014’, Human Rights Watch, 2014, pg.47.

Multiple Medical Studies
For example:
“Decriminalise sex work.  Decriminalisation can improve the risk environment..  End impunity for crimes and abuses committed against sex workers.  Advance evidence-based policies and practices in partnership with SW-led organisations.  End discriminatory laws, policies and practices against female, male and transgender sex workers.  ..  Include civil society, incl SW-led organisations, in national policy planning.  Recognise sex work as work, and develop occupational health and safety standards, mechanisms to redress violence against sex workers and other violations against labour and human rights.”  Panel 4: Calls for action for stakeholders in the HIV response for sex workers, An action agenda for HIV and sex workers, The Lancet, 22nd July 2014, pg.10.
C Harcourt, J O’Connor, S Egger, C Fairly, H Wand, M Chen, L Marshall, J Kaldor, B Donovan, ‘The Decriminalisation of Prostitution is Associated with Better Coverage of Health Promotion Programs for Sex Workers’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2010, 34:5 pg. 482.

Open Society Foundations
‘Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society’, Open Society Foundations, October 2015.

“Pieces of meat” & balance in journalism

On Friday the 1st of April, last week, Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer only sex worker organisation) issued an invitation to sex workers and supporters to join in raising concerns over the “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference.  The conference, an event at which proponents of the criminalisation of sex work will be gathering, runs over the 9th and 10th of April (today and tomorrow).

Sex workers and supporters participating in the protest on social media since then, have been experiencing significant levels of abuse from anti sex work individuals.  This has included being called “pimps”, being told that we are “happy hookers”, that we are “meat for buyers”, “fucktoys”, that we are “commodities to be bought, sold and used”, referred to as “female flesh”, “pieces of meat”, and told that sex workers are the “pimp lobby”.

Vixen Collective itself, a sex worker only collective, made up of current and former sex workers, has been referred to as a “pro sex trade group” and “sex trade apologists” by event speaker Simone Watson.

 

Those involved in the conference have made claims of being “silenced” by sex workers, a proposition that seems ludicrous when examined – that a few sex workers on twitter could silence people who are having a conference to show case their ideas – a conference at which many of the speakers are published authors/journalists, some academics, many with significant social capital and power.

In confirmation of this fact there has been extensive coverage in the media on the conference outlining the anti sex work position, without any balance or effort to give voice to sex workers concerns.  Of the four “articles” carried in major periodicals, which could for the most piece also be characterized as opinion editorials, Vixen Collective has been contacted by none, nor has the national sex worker organisation Scarlet Alliance.

The headlines of the four pieces are as follows (they are deliberately not linked due to the offensive and triggering content):
‘Pro sex trade group Vixen Collective ramps up campaign’ (Simone Watson, Tasmanian Times, 5th April)
‘Van Badham’s freedom of speech for some? (Isla MacGregor, Tasmanian Times, 8th April)
‘I clutched the cash while he used me’: Former prostitutes on why they want the industry banned’ (Emma Reynolds, News.com, 8th April)
‘Sex Trade survivors deserve the chance to speak’ (Meagan Tyler, The Conversation, 8th April)

The first, is by Simone Watson, the current Director of pro-Swedish Model (sometimes referred to as the Nordic Model) group NorMAC, there is more information on the problems with this piece here.

The second, is by Isla MacGregor, close friend and writing partner of Simone Watson – this is an attack on feminist and Guardian columnist Van Badham for having the audacity to support sex worker rights.

The third, by Emma Reynolds, is what could kindly be referred to as an advertorial for the book ‘Prostitution Narratives’ that is being launched at the conference this weekend.  Now, let me be clear – everyone has the right to tell their story.  Being able to be heard when speaking about our lives is a critical part of what we are protesting for, but the fact that News.com ran a story without talking to anyone who wasn’t pro-criminalisation and didn’t contact a single peer sex worker organisation is a critical failure.  This is a failure not just in recognising  sex workers’ voices, but a failure in journalism.

The fourth, one is in The Conversation written by RMIT academic Meagan Tyler, colleague of Dr Caroline Norma, and also known for her work with organisation CATWA (an organisation that holds a pro-criminalisation of sex work view).  Ms Tyler includes quotes from my blog (where the original protest was posted), including that sex workers and supporters should:

“write to RMIT to express concerns about the Conference to the University Chancellor”

But then goes on to suggest that this amounts to:

“.. online tactics used to bully, intimidate and deny people a platform to speak..”

This is purposefully omitting the fact that at no time was there a call by Vixen Collective for the conference to be shut down, simply that we wished for sex workers concerns to be heard.

So what’s the up-side in a week of sex workers being called “pieces of meat” and shut out of the mainstream media?

Well, late yesterday RMIT Catalyst – the student newspaper at RMIT published an article where they spoke to both the conference organisers and Vixen Collective.  It was a moment of, for sex workers, what hopefully will be increasingly common in the future of journalism – being heard.

What traction sex workers do have in being listened to on their own lives and work in the media, shouldn’t be exceptional, it should be the standard.  It should not be an enduring battle to gain space to publish op ed’s of our own – but it is and so we express our thoughts and stories on blogs and twitter.  We’re not silencing anyone because these are so often the only places we have in which to speak.

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RMIT Slammed for Facilitating Sex Work Abolition Conference

We can only hope to see more balanced journalism in the main-stream press in the future.  Given that the above was from student journalists maybe it’s a good sign that we will.

Carrying on the tradition of making our voices heard in the spaces that are available to us, we are having a protest onsite at RMIT today, please see details below:

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Protesting the “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference – Protest Notice

*Sex Workers & Supporters*

Time: 1pm until 3pm, Saturday 9th April 2016

Location: Outside the Emily McPherson Building (Building 13, 405 Russell St, Melbourne, on the Victoria St side of the building)

**Please be aware of and prioritise your safety, anti sex work individuals/groups have been known to approach & take photographs of people at protests, so if this is problematic or distressing for you then consider if it is safe for you to be in the protest space**

Please Note – we are planning and advocating for a non-violent, non-intrusive protest.

Vixen Collective does not advocate for anyone to enter the conference space or approach conference attendees.

On social media anti sex work individuals have raised concerns about silencing, which, given that the conference contains speakers who are published authors/academics etc. is wildly out of place and unrealistic compared to sex workers raising concerns on twitter.

However, just as sex workers do not wish to be silenced, we do not wish to be perceived as silencing anyone and therefore we ask people participating in the protest to try not to become involved in verbal altercations.

We will have Vixen Collective support people there and please take the opportunity to step back and de-brief.

We have permission to be present on RMIT property and RMIT security is aware that we are having a protest and can be called on if necessary.

If the space becomes hostile due to the presence or actions of anti sex work individuals or groups we plan to exit the space and de-brief off site.

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Vixen Collective

The Sound of Silencing Sex Workers

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On Friday last week I posted a blog entry entitled ‘Join the Online Protest – “World’s Oldest Oppression” Conference’ about the efforts of local peer sex worker organisation Vixen Collective to protest an anti sex work conference here in Melbourne, Australia.

Individual sex workers and sex worker allies have joined Vixen Collective in protesting online – primarily on Twitter – RMIT University’s choice play host to a conference that brings together a range of anti sex work figures, outspoken in their support of either the Swedish Model of sex work criminalisation (sometimes called the Nordic Model) or of outright abolition of sex work.

It’s always interesting to see what reaction there will be online to a protest by sex workers.  Interesting, but often predictable.

Anti sex work groups have a tendency to claim that they themselves are being “silenced” when sex workers speak out for our human rights.

Since the protest started, a member of local pro-Swedish Model organisation NorMAC, Simone Watson, who once likened sex workers to “meat” has published an opinion piece in the Tasmanian Times where Vixen Collective, an unfunded peer sex worker organisation is referred to as a “pro sex trade group”.

Simone Watson, also in the Tasmanian Times, makes the claim that I personally have “launched an online campaign to discredit the voices of prostitution Survivors”.  Given that I have done no such thing, as is demonstrable from reading the actual post – I would suggest that Ms Watson retract her defamatory statement.

In comments on Twitter by anti sex work folk, I noticed just this morning, the standard refrain that their side is being “silenced” by sex workers.

Of the listed speakers for the conference – Julie Bindel, Rachel Moran, Dr Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist – all are published authors, at least one has tenure at a University, and all make regular appearances as public speakers on the subject of the criminalisation of sex work – of which it is to be expected, that some appearances are paid.

These are not people who are silent.  These are not people who are lacking in a platform.  To suggest that an online protest by individual sex workers, an unfunded peer sex worker organisation, and sex worker allies – is in any way “silencing” people with this degree of power, social capital, and continuing access to a variety of platforms is absurd.

But it is a useful tool in continuing to silence sex workers, which really is the point of the exercise isn’t it, when your end goal is abolishing sex work?

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Want to join the protest?

Take action online:

RMIT is on both Twitter and FaceBook

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

 

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

A Pocket Guide to Dealing With Anti’s Online

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Finding the internet a hateful place?  Sick of being attacked by anti’s online, or just looking for an antidote to all the lies?

Look below for information to help recharge or re-engage.

 

Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work – for Sex Workers Health and Safety!

10 Reasons to Decriminalise Sex Work (Open Society)

Sex Work and the Law – the Case for Decriminalization (Desiree Alliance)

Decriminalisation of Sex Work – The Evidence Is In (HIV Australia)

The sexual health of sex workers: no bad whores, just bad laws (Ally Daniel, Social Research Briefs)

Decriminalising Sex Work Would Cut HIV Infections By A Third (Imperial College London)

 

The Swedish Model of Sex Work Regulation Harms Sex Workers

‘We Want to Save You – & If You Don’t Appreciate It You Will Be Punished’ (SWAN Network – Youtube)

The ‘Nordic model’ of prostitution law is a myth (The Conversation)

Swedish Model – A Failure (BAYSWAN)

The Problem With the “Swedish Model” for Sex Work Laws (New Republic)

Nordic Model of Prostitution ‘Makes Sex Workers More Vulnerable to Violence and STDs’ (IBT)

Advocacy Toolkit – The Real Impact of the Swedish Model on Sex Workers (NSWP)

Resistance to the Swedish model through LGBTQ and sex work community collaboration and online intervention (Nicklas Dennermalm, Digital Culture & Education)

Göran Lindberg and Sweden’s dark side (The Guardian)

 

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Bad Science, Lies and Other Anti Sex Work Rhetoric

A Load of Farley (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

Remembering Judge Himel: Bold assertions and inflammatory language not useful to the court (Laura Agustin, The Naked Anthropologist)

The Sex Trade: Lies, the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’ and Other Silencing Tactics (Ruth Jacobs, Huffington Post)

Is One of the Most-Cited Statistics About Sex Work Wrong (Chris Hall, The Atlantic)

The War on Sex Workers (Melissa Gira Grant, Reason.com)

There is more to the prostitution debate than privileged sex workers and silent, abused victims (Abi Wilkinson, International Business Times)

Inside the Sensational Business of “Rescuing” Sex Workers (Mike Ludwig, Truth Out)

From aborton to sex work, why the state shouldn’t control women’s bodies (Frankie Mullin, New Statesman)

Rehashing Tired Claims About Prostitution – A Response to Farley and Raphael and Shapiro (Ronald Weitzer)

Amazingly Stupid Statements (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

 

Diversity of Sex Worker Community and Activism

All sex workers have the right to speak out about their lives and work – but the myth of the “privileged few” not only silences sex workers, it obscures the voices of sex workers of colour, those outside the West and the most marginalised in our communities.

Black Sex Workers’ Lives Matter: Appropriation of Black Suffering (Robyn Maynard, Truth-Out)

Why VAMP Supports Decriminalisation of Sex Work (Meena Saraswathi Seshu and Aarthi Pai, Feminist India)

Meet the Thai Sex Workers Fighting for Their Right to Earn a Living (Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, VICE)

South Africa: Coalition Launched to Decriminalise Sex Work (Ashleigh Furlong, All Africa)

What the Rentboy Raid Tells Us About the Gendered Rhetoric of Trafficking (Morgan M Page, Tits & Sass)

Why Cambodia’s sex workers don’t need to be saved (Patrick Winn, Global Post)

The creative protests of sex workers in Argentina (Georgina Orellano, Open Democracy)

Dear Justice Minister, Let’s Discuss The Concerns Of Sex Workers (Naomi Sayers, Huffington Post)

An open letter to Tom Meagher, from St Kilda street-based sex workers (Feminist Ire)

 

Who Are These People?

*NOTE – particular effort has been taken to find pieces written by sex workers, allies or general media about these people rather than referencing their actual work

Cathy Brennan – Outing, platforms, harassment and privilege (Jem, The F Word)

Caroline Norma – Make room for sex workers in the sisterhood … and don’t forget men (Anthony Smith, The Conversation)

Melinda Tankard Reist – “Gaping Arseholes” And “20-Foot Schlongs”: Australia Debated Porn Last Night And It Was Magnificent (Meg Watson, Junkee)

Rachel Moran – Played Out (Maggie McNeill, The Honest Courtesan)

Sheila Jeffreys – Leading feminist launches bizarre ‘racist’ attack on trans community (Star Observer)

 

And now… some humour…

Just Don’t Call It Slut Shaming: A Feminist Guide to Silencing Sex Workers (Feminist Ire)

Hanging Out In the Pimp Lobby (Sometimes It’s Just a Cigar)

Everything You Need to Know About the Pimp Lobby (Charlotte Shane)

 

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Organisations that Support the Decriminalisation of Sex Work

Amnesty International – Sex Workers’ Rights Are Human Rights

United Nations (UN) – Sex Work and the Law in Asia and the Pacific (pg.21-31)

World Health Organisation (WHO) – Consolidated Guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations (pg.90-91)

Human Rights Watch – Human Rights Watch: World Report 2014 (pg.47)

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) – Submission to Scottish Parliament in Support of Decriminalisation of Sex Work in Scotland

Open Society Foundations (OSF) – Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Global Commission on HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (pg.40)

Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) – Why Decriminalise Sex Work?

Vixen Collective in alliance with Sex Worker Organisations in Australia – Sex workers stand in solidarity in calling for full decriminalisation of sex work!

* Only one reference has been provided for each organisation, when many are available and note that this list is (obviously) not intended to be an exhaustive list of references.

 

Have a reference or link you think needs to be on this list?
Either comment on this post or contact me on Twitter at @sexliesducttape

Guide to Making a Submission to the Draft ‘Sex Work Regulations 2016’

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What’s a Submission?

A submission can be as simple as a letter on how you feel about the way you work as a Victorian sex worker:

  • How do you feel about mandatory testing for STIs/HIV every three months?
  • Are you a Private Worker who feels the current restrictions on in-calls are too harsh?
  • Do you feel you have less ability to go to the police if you need to as a sex worker in Victoria?
  • Are you concerned that registering with the CAV/BLA will subject you to future discrimination?
  • Are you a street based sex worker affected by current policing operations?
  • Have you been affected by stigma and/or discrimination as a sex worker?
  • Do you work in a brothel and feel you are subject to working conditions that you cannot organise to change, like other workers would be able to do (through unions, by accessing the Workplace Ombudsman, or WorkSafe)?
  • Is there a way that you would prefer to work? Many sex workers indicate sex work decriminalisation, the system currently in place in New South Wales as their preference – do you feel this way?

A submission doesn’t have to be longer than a few paragraphs and it doesn’t have to be a technical document.
It’s often the case that government receive many form letters to submission processes, writing something in your own words, about your own experience can be very powerful.

What has changed between the Draft ‘Sex Work Regulations 2016’ and the previous regulations?

Very little. The most significant changes are:

  • Full body shots, photographs in advertising will no longer be restricted to head and shoulders only – but only on the internet.
    There are restrictions on these, as advertising cannot contain representations of: “..the bare sexual organs, buttocks or anus of a person, or frontal nudity of the genital region; or bare breasts; or a sexual act or simulated sexual act; or a person under the age of 18 years..”
  • Advertisements may now contain references to race, colour or ethnic origin.

You can see the full listing of changes at – Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation – Consumer Affairs Victoria
**NOTE – SUBMISSION DEADLINE NOW EXTENDED TO 5:00PM, FRIDAY 4th MARCH**

Sending Your Submission to Consumer Affairs Victoria

There are a number of methods of sending your submission in:

  • Email your submission directly to the CAV via – cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au
  • Post your submission directly to the CAV via –
    Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation
    Policy and Legislation Branch
    Consumer Affairs Victoria
    GPO Box 123
    Melbourne VIC 3001

NB – For anyone who wishes to list a return contact email or postal address other than their own please feel free to list Vixen Collective’s email and/or postal address:
Email address – vixencollectivemelbourne@gmail.com or, Postal address –
Vixen Collective
Melbourne Flinders Lane
PO Box 525
Flinders Lane, VIC 8009

Other References

Wanting other information on Victorian legislation/regulations or reference material? Check the list below and hopefully you will find a helpful link:

Information on Legislation/Regulations
Scarlet Alliance: Sex Industry Law – Victoria

General Articles
The Sexual Health of Sex Workers: no bad whores, just bad laws
Sex Work Legislation Stands in the Way of Australia’s Commitments

Academic Articles
Mandatory Testing for HIV and Sexually Transmissible Infections among Sex Workers in Australia: A Barrier to HIV and STI Prevention
Improving the health of sex workers in NSW: maintaining success

Other
Sex Workers Stand In Solidarity in Calling for the Full Decriminalisation of Sex Work! – Media Release
The Principles for Model Sex Work Legislation

 

If you have questions on the submission process, contact Consumer Affairs on cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au

 

TO DOWNLOAD THIS GUIDE AS A PDF DOCUMENT, CLICK HERE – VSG_ISW-DSWR2016

 

Have any feedback on this guide?  Contact Vixen Collective on Twitter at @VixenCollective or visit our website for more information at vixencollective.blogspot.com.au

See below for examples of submissions…

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Example of a Submission by a Victorian Sex Worker

 

Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation
Policy and Legislation Branch
Consumer Affairs Victoria
GPO Box 123
Melbourne VIC 3001
Email: cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au

 

27th February 2016

To whom it may concern,

My name is Nell and I am a brothel based sex worker in Melbourne.

The Victorian licensing system makes it incredibly difficult for both my work and personal life. I’ve described a few of these here.

Mandatory testing is a perpetual reminder that the government views me as “dirty” and a threat to public health. I am treated as though I do not know how to care for my health, like I can’t make decisions about my own body. I am perfectly aware of the risks of STIs, just like other sex workers and we get tested without needing to be told. We are not ticking time bombs of infection and disease. This policy is a blatant attack on our bodily autonomy and basic human dignity.

Within the licensing system, police are not my protectors, but are instead monitor my very existence. This is expressed in legislation, but also in police behaviour. If I am subject to a crime, violent or otherwise, at work or not – going to police for assistance isn’t even remotely an option. The threat of being outed, discrimination, interpersonal violence, and just generally horrific treatment by people as a result. This means that I turn to my peers, other sex workers and community for support, because reporting to the police is not an option.

Stigma is a harm so major and all-encompassing that it is a challenge to explain its damage in only a few words. People’s perceptions of sex work as a social evil, or of sex workers as victims, mean they can become abusive or abandon us when we are outed. My relationships with family and friends were so severely damaged by their discovery of my work, that I’ve been forced to completely reshape and rebuild my life. Other sex workers have supported me, but many of my family and friends have subjected me to emotional abuse and threats. The licensing systems perpetuates this stigma.

Decriminalisation, along with a commitment to alleviate stigma (through media, education, and so on) will make an enormous difference in our lives. We deserve to be heard, to be listened to, to be the decision makers on issues relating to us.

Yours sincerely,

Nell.

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Example of a Submission by an Inter-State Sex Worker

 

Sex Work Regulations 2016 Consultation
Policy and Legislation Branch
Consumer Affairs Victoria
GPO Box 123
Melbourne VIC 3001
Email: cav.consultations@justice.vic.gov.au

 

27th February 2016

To whom it may concern,

I am a sex worker from NSW, I am writing because having worked in Sydney under decriminalisation I know that this is a system that supports my health and safety.

 

Under decriminalisation of sex work in NSW:

 

  • I do not have to register my name with the government like private workers do in Victoria, creating opportunities for discrimination later in life.
  • I am not subject to mandatory STI/HIV testing because, like sex workers everywhere across Australia, I maintain my sexual health as part of my work – and, as studies show sex workers have sexual health at least as good or better than the general population.
  • If someone threatens me or is violent to me when I am working, I can go to the police more easily than a Victorian sex worker. Because the police do not regulate the sex industry in NSW, I can get assistance from the police like any other person in the community.
  • I have the ability to choose between a variety of different ways of working, and do what suits me best. If I want to work privately in an environment I control – which is best for my safety – then I can do this.
  • Although as a sex worker I am still subject to stigma and discrimination, I am supported by sex worker community through a funded state based peer sex worker organisations – SWOP NSW.

 

Victorian sex workers should have access to the same rights and opportunities that NSW sex workers do.

 

The Victorian Government needs to end mandatory testing of STIs/HIV, the registration of sex workers, remove the police as regulators of the sex industry in Victoria, and most importantly fully decriminalise sex work in Victoria.

 

Yours sincerely,

Alice West

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)

MJ from Vixen Collective speaks at Reclaim the Night

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On Saturday October 18th Reclaim the Night once more took over the streets of Brunswick,

Reclaim the Night has not always been a safe space for sex workers – sex workers and their workplaces have been targeted by marchers previously (strip clubs have been protested both here in Melbourne and overseas).

But in recent years there has been a concerted effort by organisers to make Reclaim the Night an inclusive space, for both sex workers and trans* people, as emphasized here by organizer Natalie Pestana in an interview with City Journal –

Reclaim the Night: stop blaming the victim

Gathering with sex workers just prior to the event we found it off-putting to see Kathleen Maltzahn among the crowd, local candidate for The Greens and well known for her anti sex work views.  However, organizers had just taped up a sign stating:
NO WHOREPHOBIA WILL BE TOLERATED IN THIS PLACE!!!
to the truck from which the speeches were being made.  We felt reasonably confident our speaker, MJ and other sex workers present would be okay (to put this in context last year I spoke and was heckled).

MJ’s speech (see below) and the other speeches were great and well received.

Then we marched.  The march is a difficult time for me – I don’t like crowds and the police are unsettling.  The police don’t mean safety to many in sex worker community.  In Victoria the police are the arm of the state that regulates sex industry workplaces, to many workers (particularly those whose work is criminalized, including street sex workers) their presence means harassment and violence.  So marching along with police lining the route wasn’t comforting.

About halfway along a mobile billboard for one of the local strip clubs drove by on the other side.  A group of men next to me started yelling abuse.  I went up to them and explained that shouting abuse about women’s workplaces or the women who worked in them wasn’t okay (& also not in keeping with the idea of the event).  They tried to argue with me, obviously upset that I had seen fit to interrupt their god given right to hurl abuse.  I didn’t notice anyone else joining in but apparently it also happened earlier in the march.

Why is it that it’s so hard to get the message across in these settings that whorephobia is not okay?

With many feminist spaces having histories of exclusion and abuse towards sex workers and trans* people, it is necessary moving forward to have inclusive spaces, there must be clear policies of zero tolerance towards whorephobia and transphobia, but it is also critical to listen to those with lived experience – I invite you to do so now:

________________________________________

My name is MJ, I am a Victorian sex worker.
Sex work is often portrayed as violent; sex workers as victims, exploited, or otherwise coerced, but I am none of those things.  I am immensely proud not only of my occupation, but of the strength, resilience and willingness to stand up against stigma that sex workers display globally.
Victorian Sex workers do not operate in the same night as the rest of you, as my fellow worker Jane Green told us last year.
In the state of Victoria we have forced STI testing – despite STI rates being lower for sex workers and condom use being well above that of the non sex working population.
We have special police units set up for us, to control and surveil our industry, our workplaces and our lives but who do not take violence against us seriously.  Indeed, many sex workers in Victoria and other parts of the country report that the biggest perpetrators of violence are indeed the police. This is particularly so for migrant sex workers, who have often come from other countries with the express purpose of entering the sex industry.  And also for those who are working in highly criminalized areas of the industry, such as street sex work.
Police harassment remains a key barrier to our safety and security.
It is extremely difficult to negotiate safety when police avoidance must be your key priority.  In fact, many sex workers never come forward with experiences of violence, because they fear being victim blamed, shamed, being told that they some how invited the violence because of their occupation, or the fear of having their private experiences of violence made public.
Let me make this clear.  Violence against sex workers happens not just because of individuals who choose to perpetrate violence, but because the laws governing sex work, and the way sex workers are viewed in our society ALLOWS IT TO.

Unfortunately violence towards sex workers can continue after a sex worker has died.
Just recently Brisbane sex worker Mayang Prasetyo was murdered by her partner. The Murdoch media, particularly the Courier Mail, and other various news outlets seized upon Mayang’s profession, and her identity as a trans woman.  Mayang is one of an increasing number of women who are murdered by their intimate partners in this country, but this was overshadowed by the media’s desire to dehumanize Mayang and sensationalize her death by drawing on her gender identity and occupation.
Be under no illusion that this too is an act of violence.
To quote from an article in the guardian by local writer Amy Gray “it was not Mayang’s gender identity or occupation that killed her, but a man who felt entitled to murder her”.
Just as with Tracy Connelly before her, whose death was also heavily sensationalized, Sex workers should never be used as fodder for salacious headlines.
We are human beings who in life and death demand dignity, respect, and human rights.
Whether oppression comes from individuals, the media, the medical and legal professions, or certain elements of the artistic communities.  It is oppression that sex workers demand an end to.  It is oppression that non sex workers can support us in ending, by listening to our voices, and by walking beside us as allies on our journeys.
Only then will we walk in the same night as you do.

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Visit Reclaim the Night’s website – Reclaim the Night

Reclaim the Night Melbourne Facebook – RTN Melbourne

Reclaim the Night Melbourne Twitter – @RTNmelb