Sex workers to fight proposed licensing laws
A protest will be held outside NSW Parliament this Friday after Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, voiced its concerns that a proposed new licensing body to regulate sex work in NSW would be “ill-conceived” and contrary to recommendations as set out by the United Nations.
The NSW Government indicated last October that it would consider introducing a tougher licensing system for sex workers, similar to that in Victoria or Queensland, following media reports of investigations by the Australian Federal Police into criminal involvement and trafficking of persons in legal and illegal brothels in several states.
The state’s sex industry is currently undergoing reviews from three separate governmental departments, with the release of those reports due over the coming weeks and months.
Scarlet Alliance president Elena Jeffreys said a report published earlier this year on the state’s sex industry by the Kirby Institute for the NSW Ministry of Health clearly showed that licensing should “not be regarded as a viable” legislative response.
“Comprehensive evidence from Queensland and Victoria demonstrates that licensing approaches fail,” Jeffreys said.
“Licensing puts sex workers’ health and safety in danger. Licensing imposes stringent requirements that force large segments of the industry underground, presenting obstacles to sex worker access to health, safety, outreach, peer education and justice.”
Jeffreys said licensing would inevitably lead to the creation of a “two-tiered sex industry” where up to 90 per cent of sex workers could be working outside the system creating even greater problems.
“A history of police corruption, harassment, entrapment practices, fear of prosecution, and use of condoms as evidence of a crime means that sex workers in a licensing model are less likely to seek police assistance in the event of a crime – especially if they are working outside the legal framework’, she added.
Jeffreys said the approach by NSW authorities to decriminalise sex work 17 years ago had put the state in line with world’s best practice as well as United Nations recommendations for the regulation of the sex industry.
“Sex workers in Australia, including migrant and culturally and linguistically diverse sex workers, have some of the lowest rates of STIs and HIV in the world,” she said.
“A better approach would be to introduce anti-discrimination protections for sex workers to better access justice, fund sex worker organisations to improve access to peer education and industrial rights, end criminalisation of street-based sex work, and appoint a sex industry liaison officer in state Government to assist local councils to abide by the NSW Sex Services Premises Planning Guidelines.”
A protest involving Scarlet Alliance, the Sex Party and The Greens will take place outside Parliament House in Sydney from midday on Friday, September 7.
The Sex Party’s candidate for the City of Sydney mayoral race, adult performer Zahra Stardust, will be among those to speak at the event.