Scarlet News:

Sex Worker Workplace Health and Safety Symposium

Feb 18, 2019 | Media release, News

‘80% of us work illegally, so we can be safe’, say Qld sex workers

What: Policy Symposium to discuss Queensland sex work laws

Where: Parliament House, Brisbane

When: 2–5pm, Wednesday 14 November

Who: Jules Kim, CEO, Scarlet Alliance

○ Kiki Magenta, BA Hons (PolSci), Secretary, Scarlet Alliance

○ Cameron Cox, CEO, SWOP NSW

○ Leanne Melling, Co-ordinator, SWOP NT

○ Candi Forrest, DecrimQLD Committee of Sex Workers

○ Kayla Rose, LLB, DecrimQLD Committee of Sex Workers

○ Elena Jeffreys, PhD (PolSci), Co-ordinator, Respect Inc

○ Hosted by Peter Russo, MP for Toohey

Queensland laws and policing practices unnecessarily endanger sex workers. ‘Sexworkers are forced to choose between working safely or legally’, Kayla Rose, sexworker and committee member of DecrimQLD said.

‘Queensland criminalises sex worker safety strategies and allows police to pose asclients to arrest us for using safe work practices. At the same time, when sexworkers try to report crimes we are turned away by police.’

‘I break the law every time I work so I can implement basic safety strategies, liketexting another colleague to let them know I’m safe after a booking’, Kayla Rosesaid. ‘Decriminalisation would mean I can share overheads with a colleague, not feelso isolated and not be fearful of police raiding my workplace.’

The Queensland regulatory framework for sex work is broken. Quoting evidencefrom New Zealand and New South Wales, symposium panelists today will explainwhy decriminalisation is the solution–the only regulatory approach thatprovides sex workers with access to industrial, health and work safetysystems.

Queensland snapshot:

● 80% of sex workers are forced to work illegally in order to work safely

● 450% increase in sex work offences (2016–17 QPS statistics)

● 30 years after the Fitzgerald Inquiry police are still regulating sex work

● $10M+ taxpayer funds spent on a regulatory body that regulates 20 brothels

● 95% of Queensland is without a licensed brothel

● 2 Queensland sex workers recently won court cases, compared with NewZealand where decriminalisation of sex work has resulted in a 70% increasein crime reporting.

To arrange interviews please contact:

Jules Kim, CEO Scarlet Alliance, 0411 985 135

Janelle Fawkes, Respect Inc, 0491 228 509

‘Decriminalisation is a cost-effective and efficient model of sex industry regulation thatdelivers such important public health outcomes that the NSW sex industry has been referredto as the ‘‘healthiest sex industry in the world’’ by researchers’, said Cameron Cox, CEO,SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) NSW.

‘Decriminalisation means as sex workers we are subject to, and can access, the same laws,regulatory frameworks and protections as everyone else. People are misinformed if theythink decriminalisation is an absence of regulation. In fact decriminalisation means greatertransparency and workplace health and safety standards. When criminal laws and policepowers are repealed existing laws can take effect. The sex industry is then regulated likeany other industry’, said Jules Kim, CEO Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex WorkersAssociation.

As early as 2009, Queensland Government-commissioned research by Anne Edwardswarned: ‘Sex workers may be in a more precarious position now than they were when thelegislation was first passed’.

‘Having sex worked pre-Fitzgerald I know for a fact that sex workers are not better off withthe licensing framework’, said Candi Forrest from the DecrimQLD committee. ‘For themajority of us it is no different, and in many ways it is now worse. The police regulation of thesex industry should have ended with the recommendations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, but thatpromise hasn’t been realised for sex workers in Queensland. Sex workers are calling fordecriminalisation based on solid evidence showing the model works.’

‘As sex workers we need the full decriminalisation of sex work, and the right to be regulatedin the same way as other workers in Queensland’, Elena Jeffreys from Respect Inc saidtoday. ‘The current regime of police entrapment, criminal penalties, fines and heavyrestrictions on sex work in Queensland affects us all and also has a disproportionate impacton sex workers who are already marginalised. Research shows that migrant sex workers,male sex workers, trans sex workers, and private and brothel sex workers who have beenthe victims of crime are all disadvantaged by licensing. Only decriminalisation will remedythe imbalance.’

‘Queensland has had more than 18 years of this model and we have suffered its devastatingeffects on our community’, Kiki Magenta of Scarlet Alliance concluded. ‘We will no longeraccept being treated like second-class citizens. Experts from legal, health and industrialrights groups agree that sex work in Queensland must be removed from the Criminal Codeand decriminalised, taking police out of the regulatory role.’

‘The evidence clearly shows that decriminalisation is the world-renowned, best practicemodel for sex work. Decriminalisation facilitates higher rates of compliance, minimisesopportunities for corruption and exploitation, increases transparency of the industry and mostimportantly, improves safety for sex workers’, said Leanne Melling from SWOP NT.

Independent sex workers are criminalised under the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld)Chapter 22A. It is illegal for independent sex workers to implement basic safetystrategies including:

– doing bookings together, sharing a workspace or working in the same building

– Checking in and checking out with another sex worker when a clientarrives/leaves

– texting another sex worker about their current location

– employing someone to answer phones or as a receptionist

– using a driver another sex worker uses/recommends, or

– providing descriptions in advertising of the services provided.

● As early as 2009, Queensland Government-commissioned research warned:‘Sex workers may be in a more precarious position now than they were whenthe legislation was first passed’. Sex workers are forced to choose betweenworking safely or legally [Edwards, A. (2009). Selling Sex; Regulating Prostitution inQueensland].

● Police currently regulate 80% of the sex industry, contrary to FitzgeraldInquiry recommendations.

● Sex workers report significant barriers to reporting crimes.

● The Queensland Police Service’s own statistics show that the pursuit of sexwork offences are mainly for the minor issues of implementing safetystrategies, working in pairs, and non-compliance with advertising regulations(which increased by up to 450% in 2016–17).

● The Prostitution Licensing Authority reports 67% of police infringements werefor advertising.

● New Zealand and New South Wales demonstrate decriminalisation does notincrease the size of the sex industry [Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Government. (2008).Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the Operation of the Prostitution Reform Act2003, p 41. Donovan, B., Harcourt, C., Egger, S. & Fairley, C. (2010). ‘Improving the health of sexworkers in NSW: Maintaining success’, NSW Public Health Bulletin 21(3–4): pp 74–77].

● Research shows decriminalisation improves conditions for sex workers with70% more likely to report crimes to the police, with police and the justicesystem responding more effectively and more fairly when crimes are reported[Abel, G. M. (2014). ‘A decade of decriminalization: Sex work ‘‘down under’’ but not underground’,Criminology & Criminal Justice 14 (5): p 57, pp 580–92].

● The World Health Organisation, United Nations, Sexual Health Society ofQueensland, Respect Inc and Amnesty International all support thedecriminalisation of sex work [Amnesty International. (2016). Amnesty International policy onstate obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of sex workers (No. 30/4062/2016)].

● The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) recommendsdecriminalisation of sex work as it ‘​would lead to fewer opportunities forexploitative working conditions, including human trafficking​’.