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Scarlet Alliance Submission to Proposed Changes to the Australian Federal Criminal Code - Trafficking Laws

ABRIDGED EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

one The Criminal Code Amendments (Sexual Servitude) 2000, a punitive approach, has not changed the number of people entering Australia to work as migrant labour here, but has created negative impacts on women working under contract, those deceptively recruited, migrant sex workers, Australian sex workers and the general sex industry, resulting in what can only be described as a total failure of the policy to date. Including:

Excessive levels of Immigration (DIMIA) and Police raids; Singling out and targeting of NESB and CALD sex workers; Death in custody; Incorrect detention; Targeting of sex industry businesses that legitimately employ migrant sex workers; Increased criminalisation of the sex industry.

There has been no noticeable decrease in the amount of sex workers who wish to engage in contracts in Australia (Scarlet Alliance estimates the number to have stayed around 400), and we conclude that the punitive regime is not working.

two Scarlet Alliance believes that Amendments outlined in Exposure Draft Criminal Code Amendment (Trafficking in Persons Offences) Bill 2004 will negatively impact on women who are trafficked into Australia on contract and those NESB workers who work legitimately in the Australian sex industry. These amendments will not prevent the practice occurring, but rather will further complicate the conditions of the contracts, placing women at greater risk. Scarlet Alliance does not support these amendments.

three The "Debt Bondage" amendments will affectively make working under contract illegal. This alone will severely affect a person working under contract from accessing assistance or services or disclosing their debt or contract relationship to anyone for fear of detection.

four The definition of exploitation is unclear within this bill, and the dictionary doesn’t address this either. The Bill and definition assume consent is irrelevant, and also that sex work as an occupation per se constitutes exploitation. The issue of excessive profiteering goes unmentioned as a basis for the Bill, as does the issue of non-negotiable terms of contract. Scarlet Alliance does not agree with these definitions, and the implied meaning of the word exploitation. The use of the term exploitation must NOT be made synonymous with the occupation of sex work (prostitution) in law.

five Health outcomes are highly compromised by the impact of the implementation of this type of legislation. Extensive and repetitive raids push the workplaces underground, cutting off access for health service providers. Sex Workers are made more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmissible infections as health educators lose access to the workplaces, reducing the possibility of them receiving information, safe sex equipment and support. When health service delivery is curtailed by workplaces closing or going underground, ALL of the women in those workplaces lose contact with information about options and their rights.

six Rather than adopting a rights based approach to this global issue these amendments constitute a toughening up of the UNSUCESSFUL criminal approach introduced into Australian legislation by the Criminal Code Amendments (Sexual Servitude) 2000.

seven As suggested in our submission addressing both the Criminal Code proposals in 1999 and the Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission 2003, we support visa’s for migrant workers to enter Australia. If there were legal means to enter the Australian workforce then the requirement for a contract would be greatly reduced.

eight Scarlet Alliance, in accordance with our aim of eradicating injustice and inequality experienced by sex workers, sees this practise of denying sex worker visas as discriminatory and ultimately very dangerous. This policy is directly responsible for the illegal status of hundreds of sex workers in Australia each year, and as a result those workers are denied protection within the decriminalised and legal sex industry. By denying sex workers visas to enter Australia, the Federal Government has created de-facto sex industry law. Even though sex industry law is currently determined by the states and territories, the status of migrant sex workers is in the hands of the Federal Government, and will be further criminalised under the proposed amendments.

nine The Australian Government’s discussion paper "Offences Against Humanity, Slavery, Model Criminal Code Officers Committee" 1998, recommendations of which were subsequently made law, indicate clearly that the Government perceived the need for laws covering sexual slavery, "were related to the problem of illegal migrants in the prostitution industry"1. This statement clearly articulates an interest in clearing out illegal migrants NOT in stopping trafficking or reducing the capacity for harm to migrant sex workers, deceptively recruited women or Australian sex workers. Essentially the Australian Government and its agencies have utilized the issue of trafficking to enable excessive targeting of sex industry premises by DIMIA in a unprecedented level of immigration raids. Scarlet Alliance believes this legislation to be a toughening up of laws which focus on enforcement and criminalization without addressing intrinsic issues.

ten The Australian Government rather than seeking to lead the way in a human rights approach to such a complex issue has instead pieced together legislation which simply replicates the failure of other countries who have introduced similar styles of legislation.

eleven The current federal laws aimed at curbing the movement of migrant sex workers into the Australian sex industry are being applied unfairly. There is excessive criminalisation and targeting of individuals from non-English speaking backgrounds within the sex industry. This is discriminatory against sex industry workers and is racist against people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

twelve Scarlet Alliance supports the rights of migrant sex workers to employment in Australia.

thirteen Scarlet Alliance wishes to acknowledge that although we raise many concerns about the lack of a comprehensive vision for migrant workers rights, we understand that the overall intent of the proposed amendment is to prevent all trafficking into forced labour, slavery and servitude. However, we are adamant that this clear purpose is obscured by the inclusion of "sexual servitude" in the definitions of trafficking.