Submission on Proposed amendments to the Sex Industry Offences Act 2005 in the Justice and Related Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2021

Scarlet Alliance submission on Proposed amendments to the Sex Industry Offences Act 2005 in the Justice and Related Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2021 on November 11, 2021.

“The Justice and Related Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2021 proposes to amend the definition of ‘sexually transmissible infection’(STI) within s 3(1) of the Sex Industry Offences Act 2005 (the Act). This defintion affects the operation of section 12 of the Sex Industry Offences Act, which establishes safer sex practices that must be adopted in a sex work setting. This section is already problematic for sex workers, as the criminalisation and penalisation of STI and BBV is a direct barrier to testing, treatment and prevention. Excessively broadening the STI definition increases that burden, and is impractical and out of step with other jurisdictions.

The proposed amendment is not grounded in public health evidence and extends beyond any other definition of STI within Australia. In effect, the amendment is so broad and unspecific that it will be impractical, if not impossible, for Tasmanian sex workers to comply. Further, a definition that relies on common terminology and is not based on accepted public health definitions is dangerous and impractical.

Broadening the definition of STI for the purposes of the Act will not promote the health and safety of sex workers or the community. Instead, the amendment will extend the scope of punitive regulations that are already creating barriers for Tasmanian sex workers seeking healthcare. There is a complete lack of evidence-based reasoning as to how the amendment will benefit sex workers or the wider community. Further, the introduction of ‘herpes’ and ‘genital warts’ complicates the ‘reasonable steps’1 that sex workers can take when preventing the ‘aquiring and transmission’ of these infections. This is because workers can not take reasonable steps to prevent these infections through prophylactic use, these infections are common amongst the general population and often, these infections are undetectable. Further they are not routinely tested for within standard sexual health testing. Introducing them into the definition of STIs is highly discriminatory, given that they are not criminalised nor penalised within the general Tasmanian population.

We strongly recommend that the government re-draft the amendment to omit its current definition, in particular the inclusion of herpes and genital warts and introduce the current STI identified by the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System.2”