Scarlet Alliance

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Human Rights

Sex workers in Australia are denied protection under Human Rights legislation (except in ACT) and many state laws actively discriminate. The Right to ‘work (and) free choice of employment’ is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the ongoing criminalisation, pathologisation and police control of sex workers in Australia infringes upon that right. In many states working legally as a private worker in the sex industry also means giving up rights to privacy due to the imperative to register (either formally or informally) with a Prostitution Control Board (eg Victoria, ACT), or police (WA) or having to apply for a D.A. with the local council (NSW, with the exception of South Sydney Council). Strict over-regulation results in many workers choosing to go into brothels in order to avoid Police, Council and Control Board attention. Street based workers suffer police harassment and are completely criminalised in most states. In NSW where street based sex work is decriminalised, the biggest threat to the human rights of street based sex workers is the gentrification of decriminalised areas, pushing workers further and further away from the city. In WA ‘move on Notices’ and ‘Restraining Orders’ are used to keep people “suspected of the intention of seeking a client” out of the inner city, curtailing freedom of movement. Scarlet Alliance supports the human rights of all sex workers to work where and how they want to, and with full access to human rights such as privacy, freedom of movement and freedom from harassment.

Scarlet Alliance recognise that Australia is a colony built upon Aboriginal land, we pay our respect to the elders and custodians of this land, current, past and future, and stand in solidarity with the struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We are a proud member of the Anwernekenhe National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV/AIDS Alliance (ANA).

"SEX WORK LEGISLATION STANDS IN THE WAY OF AUSTRALIA’S COMMITMENTS: Decriminalisation for sex workers health, safety and rights" by Janelle Fawkes

Australia is a signatory to the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration (UNPD) on HIV and AIDS. By signing the declaration, Australia has committed to protecting and promoting human rights and the elimination of stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV and prioritised communities (including sex workers) as a ‘critical element in combating the global HIV epidemic’1 and achieving the UNPD targets. In 2014 Australia stands at a threshold in relation to HIV and human rights. The sex worker community is clear on what equates to enabling legal, social and policy frameworks for sex workers – with strong research, clinical evidence and the lived experiences of sex workers showing decriminalisation is the legal framework that enables an effective HIV response for sex workers – what we call for now is the long awaited commitment from government. This article is published by AFAO and was released as part of a special edition of HIV Australia for the International AIDS Conference 2014"

"Protecting sex worker human rights in Australia" by Zahra Stardust

With increasing international visibility, the movement for sex worker rights is rapidly gaining momentum. Simultaneously, regressive laws, discrimination and abolitionist agendas pose real dangers to our communities, our work, our health and our safety. We are witnessing an international commitment to ending stigma and discrimination. However, every win for our human rights has been an uphill battle and significant barriers face us ahead. This article outlines the human rights issues affecting sex workers in Australia and makes recommendations for reform. This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of the Newsletter of the Human Rights Law Working Group of the Public and Professional Interest Division of the International Bar Association (Vol 1, No 2, Part II), and is reproduced by kind permission of the International Bar Association, London, UK. © International Bar Association.

Anti-Trafficking Measures should not be Anti-Human Rights

Download the "RighT Guide" - an assessment tool for anti-trafficking measures, described in the YouTube Video above

HUMAN RIGHTS CONSULTATION - Sex Workers Submit Our Views

Sex workers regularly participate in human rights discussions in Australia. A recent submission in 2014 to Tim Wilson explained that sex workers voices & needs must be considered. Scarlet Alliance also submitted in 2009. This submission seeks to highlight discrimination in advertising, entrapment, mandatory testing, discrimination against people living with HIV, stigma, vilification in the media and discriminatory treatment by commercial and financial institutions. Vixen, the Victorian Sex Industry Network, also submitted, focussing on local Victorian sex workers needs. Download VIXEN Submission 2009.

HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD - we congratulate one of our peers.

On the 8th March 2005 International Women's Day, the National Human Rights Commision of Thailand awarded Porn (Ms Pornpit Puckmai, Empower) with the first annual human rights award for defending the rights of women. 36 human rights defenders were nominated for the award. The judges decisions were based on the history of the human rights work done by the nominees and they saw that Porn's work with Empower on the promotion of the rights of sex workers was outstanding and most deserving of this award. She was presented with her award in Bangkok and given wide media coverage in Thailand.

Porn wants to say this to all of you- porn2

"I want this award to be an inspiration to all of us sex workers fighting for our rights. I want to say to you that if you are a sex worker and you're thinking about whether to join the fight for sex worker rights then it! . I thought that our fight would take 150 years or more but now I'm not so sure we will have to wait that long. It is a huge step that the National Human Rights Commission here in Thailand has given it's inaugural award to me, a sex worker who works for the rights of sex workers. This is recognition for all sex workers that we have rights and that we are more than capable of defending our rights. This is not just my award. This is our award. The Power We Have: The Power We Share!"

Related Publications

Australian Human Rights Commission Submission by Scarlet Alliance, 2014

2014 Journal article by Scarlet Alliance Policy Officer, Zahra Stardust.

National Human Rights Consultation, June 2009 Download the Scarlet Alliance submission, focussing on advertising, entrapment, mandatory testing, discrimination against people living with HIV, stigma, vilification in the media and discriminatory treatment by commercial and financial institutions.

National Human Rights Consultation, June 2009, VIXEN Download the Victorian submission, focussing on criminaliation, and concern that too often in discourses that conflate human trafficking and exploitation with sex work, there is an over-emphasis on forced labour and the reaction has been to the negligence of an individual’s right to choose.

Unjust and Counter Productive: The failure of Governments to protect sex workers from discrimination. Banach and Metzenrath. This report is based on a survey of sex workers and explains in 5 sections arguments for anti-discrimination protection, findings of the research, current laws, current remedies for discrimination and strategies for action.

HUMAN RIGHTS of SEX WORKERS in WA Nancy Hudson-Rodd PhD (School of International, Cultural, Community Studies, ECU) September 2002. This paper explores international human rights treaties and their possible ramification upon unjust sex industry laws in Western Australia.

Sex Workers' Rights, Human Rights: The Impact of Western Australian Legislation On Street Based Sex Workers. Elaine Dowd, 2002 Outskirts Magazine Elaine has been researching a Phd on the effects of laws on Street Based Workers in WA. This paper exposes some of the shocking results of bad legislative framework, and the denial of human rights for sex workers.

Updated 16 December 2014