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Federal servitude & trafficking offences in Australia single out sex work.

Not just in Australia but internationally an anti-sex work approach has been adopted within anti-trafficking laws. These laws prioritise the targeting and criminalisation of activities associated with migrant sex work. Scarlet Alliance opposes the this approach and proposes that sex worker rights must be incorporated into legislation on a Federal level to empower migrant workers in Australia, not push them underground.

New Federal Laws

  • Scarlet Alliance DID NOT support the new laws.
  • The new laws lower the threshold for proving trafficking and work to increase police surveillance powers and the criminalisation of migrant sex workers and their work places.
  • The new laws are obviously for the purposes of bumping up prosecution figures, with no new rights, avenues for migration or funding for migrant workers
  • The laws have been written without regard for the negative impacts that they will inevitably have on migrant workers in Australia.
  • Preventative approaches that address the circumstances that create trafficking should be pursued over criminal justice approaches.
  • The most successful approaches prioritise the needs, agency and self-determination of trafficking victims over criminal prosecutions and increased surveillance.
  • A useful approach would be to address labour exploitation through a focus on industrial rights, occupational health and safety, civil remedies, statutory compensation, and equitable access to visas, migration channels and support.
  • Instead, the new laws regulate who can consent to travel, work, have sex, and earn money.
  • The new laws do not recognise the consent of migrant sex workers.
  • The lack of recognition of consent in the new laws limits who can be heard and access justice.
  • In a wider socio-economic and geo-political sense, the new laws take away the agency of people to work to provide money for their family, prevents people from moving across borders, reinforces racist stereotypes, keeps people in poverty, and prescribes who is able to make rational decisions.
  • Although the laws intend to criminalise acts "suppressing the person’s free will, their self-respect, as well as the ability to make decisions for themselves", this is exactly what the laws do to migrant workers by stating that their consent is, according to the Explanatory Memorandum, ‘irrelevant’.
  • The new laws also empower police to intercept information via phone tapping and other covert means.
  • Scarlet Alliance is concerned that this information could be used to investigate and then prosecute people for summary offences (in particular relating to sex work), leading to the harassment, arrest and deportation of migrants.
  • The information/record is to be kept until "the Chief Officer of the agency is satisfied that the record is no longer required for a purpose permitted by the legislation" (5).
  • Sex workers in some states in Australia systematically have their privacy compromised where they are forced to register on a state or police database and their personal details are kept on permanent record.
  • These records have been used against sex workers in court in proceedings wholly unrelated to their sex work experience.
  • The new laws pose the same danger.
  • Although people still have judicial avenues through which to challenge the validity of the interception, the burden and expense is upon them to bring the action, after the fact.
  • The new laws are not in the interests of migrant sex worker rights in Australia.
  • Download the full submission here.

Project Respect want to jail us

Sex workers in Shenzhen are rounded up by police in a southern Chinese raid of sex workers. This is a regular occurance in criminalised environments.

It was reported in a May 2004 Lateline interview that Project Respect, a Victorian NGO, had called for the re-criminalisation of the sex industry as a way of addressing what the Government refers to as the trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual servitude. Link These and other anti-sex work views have had a harmful impact on sex workers in Australia. However the anti-sex work lobby has been increasingly using the issue of trafficking to hide their broader agenda of making all sex work illegal.

The re-criminalisation of the Australian sex industry will only serve to worsen the conditions for the approx. 20,000 Australian women, men and transgender sex workers. It will mean the industry will go "underground" to avoid this excessive level of police and immigration attention and will not assist victims of slavery.

Australian sex industry premises have been targetted by on-going raids by DIMIA and AFP over the last couple of years. The people picked up in these raids have not been "sex slaves". The majority of people detected in these raids have been deported. New laws that allow for sex workers to access visas if they give evidence were passed in 2005. However for the majority of migrant sex workers going to court against their bosses is not an option.

Migrant sex workers deserve labor rights, not simply the right to testify against their boss AFTER experiencing exploitation. If recognised as workers, migrant sex workers would have access to civil means of justice, including industrial protections afforded to all other workers in Australia.

Sex Slavery and Anti-Trafficking Laws, Criminal Code S270 and S271 in 2012 nb information about the new laws to be posted soon

Definition of slavery: the condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including where such a condition results from a debt or contract made by the person.

Definition of sexual servitude: the condition of a person who provides sexual services and who, because of the use of force or threats is not free to cease providing sexual services; or is not free to leave the place or area where the person provides sexual services.

Trafficking in persons: the person that organises or facilitates the entry or proposed entry, or the receipt, of another person into Australia; and uses force or threats or deception; and that use of force or threats or deception results in the first person obtaining the other person’s compliance in respect of that entry or proposed entry or in respect of that receipt OR is reckless as to whether the other person will be exploited, either by the first person or another, after that entry or receipt, is guilty of an offence.

Link for a full transcript of the trafficking and slavery laws in Australia

**Federal Laws 2004/5 nb information about the new laws to be posted in more detail soon**

The Australian Parliament passed laws governing "trafficking" and migrant sex workers in Australia in July 2005. The laws came into effect in December 2005. The laws arose after an inquiry (see below) and submission process. Download Bill

As the laws were debated and passed we followed the issue and all of the major players. Link to more information

Scarlet Alliance wrote a submission opposing the federal laws. Download Submission

Australian Inquiry 2003/4

In 2003 the Parliamentary Joint Inquiry into the ACC and "trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual servitude" invited public submissions.

You can view submissions on the Australian Parliament site. View

Scarlet Alliance produced a submission which was endorsed by NSWP (Network of sex worker projects) and APNSW (Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers. view Scarlet Alliance was subsequently invited to give evidence at the face-to-face Sydney panel of senators, recorded in Hansard,go to link

Go to Scarlet Alliance Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Inquiry into the ACC and "trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual servitude".

A report was released the the Joint Inquiry committee in July 2004 View

"Sex Slavery" Laws 1999/2000

Briefing Paper CHAPTER 9; OFFENCES AGAINST HUMANITY; ‘SLAVERY’ Scarlet Alliance Addressed to the Standing Committee of the Attorneys-General (all State and Federal Attorney General’s) regarding the proposed changes (now law) to Australia’s treatment of people who migrate to Australia for sex work. Scarlet Alliance argues strongly that migrant workers in Australia need legitimisation, not criminalisation. “The most important support that the Australian Government could provide for these workers is to ratify the UN International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families (the ‘Migrant Workers Convention’).”

Second Reading Speech The Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) Bill 1999 Mrs Stone member for Murray moves that the Bill be read a Second Time. In the second reading speech the Liberals describe how this Bill will ensure Australia’s international obligations are fulfilled, and how the Bill was supported by all state Attorney Generals. (ie State Labor Governments supported the Bill also).

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Updated 15 March 2013