brothels, clients, consent, councils, decriminalisation, discrimination, feminism, law reform, laws, licensing, mandatory testing, Melbourne, nursing homes, personal stories, Queensland, rants, regulation, safe sex, sex industry, Sex Work, south australia, stigma, street workers, the boss
Dear Ms. Key, Ms. Gago, members of the South Australian parliament, people with influence and anyone following the latest attempt at sex industry law reform in this once progressive but now somewhat stale state.
Please stop it! You’re making it worse!
You may think you’re doing the right thing but The bill you’re debating has been cut and paste so much in order to appease and play politics that what remains is not workable or fair and will not improve the lives of sex workers or anyone else. It’s not a game of bluff, nor is it a matter of compromise. The bill you are considering is a big step backward.
This is ridiculous. Why are politicians sitting around and deciding how sex workers should best practice safe sex. Why should they be able to criminalise some consensual sex acts between adults just because there is payment involved? Why do they get a say on how adults are allowed to negotiate sex and money. And why do we need to be kept 500 meters away from schools? Is it me who is the danger to children and does that include my own children? Or is it my client who is the dangerous monster? What is it about paying an adult for a sexual service that you think has anything to do with kids at school? What exactly are you scared of? And we’re not talking about inappropriate signage or amenities, because that is covered by different laws. And frankly, sex workers and our clients are generally discreet. You don’t even know that I’m selling sex from my home right next door to yours! And why is no sex work allowed near churches? Who is that clause designed to protect anyway? And why bother even worrying about schools and churches when the bill gives all the power for approving any kind of sex industry business to the councils, who have made it clear that they will never support brothels! So even if I tried to comply with this new law and secured a suitable location and put in a planning application, it’s going to be rejected on moral grounds and I will be back to square one. In reality councils will have about as much luck of stopping sex work from occurring as they do now. And just like now, most will be sex industry businesses will be forced to remain unregulated and underground.
And why is it anyone else’s business who I entertain in my own home or how they compensate me? Can you see through walls? And what’s the deal with all the hate on sex workers who solicit in public places? What exactly is so offensive about a woman standing on the street at night time anyway? And I don’t believe that she is propositioning your children, because it’s unlikely your children could afford it. Personally I feel more uncomfortable walking past a building site in the broad daylight than I do going to the pizza shop on Hanson Road.
And why should we have to deal with police on regular basis. I have had a lot of different jobs in my time, and never did the police come and check to see if I was bending at the knees when lifting nursing home residents, or displaying a slippery when wet sign when I mopped the floors of woollies. Why are we still being treated like this? Sex workers are not criminals. Stop making us into them. In some states of Australia it is illegal to discriminate against sex workers but the bill you are debating is discriminatory. It treats sex workers differently to other workers in comparable industries and it discriminates against different ways working in the sex industry. But even less forgivably, it will make our lives harder, not better.
Yes it’s true that most sex work in South Australia is currently criminalised. And that most of us already dodge laws, deal with police, and work underground. It is true that our laws are the oldest in the country. But please don’t change them just for the sake of it. Do not change them unless you are changing them for the better. Sex workers know what we need, its decriminalisation. Every credible report from the last 10 years names decriminalisation as the only model that will promote sex workers health and safety. Every state and Territory in Australia has a different model of regulation for the sex industry and if you need any more proof that the only workable model we know of to date is decriminalisation, all you have to do is speak to sex workers about our experiences of working across Australia. NSW and NZ have successfully decriminalised sex work for more than a decade. In those places sex workers are not criminals. We have full access to all the services and structures, protections and rights that every other worker does, and employers have the same obligations as any other employer. Sex workers all over the world are begging for decriminalisation. Its not rocket science.
In stark contrast Victoria and Queensland have different versions of licensing mixed with criminal laws that govern various aspects of the industry. Special bodies have been set up to monitor the laws and the police are still heavily involved in regulating sex workers work spaces. Not only have those laws been ineffective but they have also been expensive and dangerous.
When I went to Victoria to work I had very little option but to work in a brothel for a boss under their rules. I wasn’t able to work for myself because the only way I could advertise was to first register myself as a prostitute with the government. This process is expensive and it is unclear who has access to those licensing records or if it is possible to get your name removed from the list. Even if I was willing to buy a licence and register, I would still not have been allowed to have the clients visit me in my hotel or home. The law states that I was only allowed to visit them at their home or hotel. So I worked for a brothel. But before I was allowed to work, I was first forced to have a full medical examination, as is the law. The nurse visited me at the brothel and took swabs while I lay in an undignified way on the brothel bed. The nurse insisted I needed an anal swab too, even though I objected and told her that I did not provide anal services to my clients. But unlike when my clients ask for this service, this nurse was not going to take no for an answer and she unconsentually and unnecessarily stuck her swab in my ass.
If I didn’t want to work for a boss in brothel conditions and I wasn’t in a position to register myself with the local authorities, my only option was to solicit publicly. Street based sex work is illegal in Victoria, but obviously still exists and in larger proportions than here in Adelaide. Victorian police have taken to dealing with this by placing female police officers posing as sex workers on the streets in order to bust potential clients. What criminalising our client’s means is that sex workers are pushed further underground in order to ensure their clients safety and the booking. It means the possibility that only the clients with nothing to loose will be willing to take the risk of visiting sex workers who publicly solicit. Essentially it decreases the amount of “respectable” clients willing to see street based sex workers and leaves us more vulnerable and fewer options.
Another huge slap in the face was working recently in QLD. I worked alone from a hotel which is legal as long I work completely alone. Not even with a friend. This is obviously not ideal, but it’s workable. Until I found out that I also can’t work in same hotel as any other sex worker. I can’t do doubles with another worker unless the client organises it. Infact I cant even have any friends who are sex workers. I was told to be careful even having lunch with another worker whilst answering my work phone. It felt crazy. I got the distinct feeling that I was viewed as a piece of property by QLD government. As a sex worker in QLD I must belong to one of the only 25 government approved registered brothels in the state or I must completely exile myself from the rest of the industry. I must rely only on my clients or my employer for support. And on top of all this, they have entire sections of the police force dedicated to ringing up private workers and trying to convince them to offer a double service or a blow job without a condom, so that they can bust them. All in the name of protecting sex workers.
And then I come home to Adelaide where the old and unworkable laws are……. well, old and unworkable. I can advertise and work for myself in ways that I choose with minimal difficulty. I can work with friends as a collective, I can work from home, I can work for a boss or opportunistically. Its all equally illegal, and easy to remain anonymous, unless I’m a victim of crime and need police assistance, or unless I’m working in a brothel that police have singled out for a raid, or unless I don’t know my rights, or unless I haven’t yet learnt the police evasion strategies. Our current laws are bad, but the new laws being proposed will only make our lives harder. They won’t work and rather than address community concerns they will highlight them. The issue of sex work regulation will not be resolved until we get sensible fair and workable law reform.
We already have sophisticated systems to deal with all areas of work, industry, OH&S, public health, zoning, amenities, child protection, industrial rights and any other areas of concern. Stop with the politics and just let us access them already.