Scarlet Alliance

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New Trafficking Laws - Scenarios, "The Silence of the Lambs"

Scarlet Alliance believes that this Bill will exacerbate the risks of violence to both genuine sex workers who knowingly migrate into Australia on “contracts” as well as those few who are deceptively or forcefully recruited to work in the sex industry .

The 300-400 women consenting to "contract" debt arrangements and entering Australia annually will be put at greater risk and will be further isolated and silenced under the proposed new laws which criminalise the contract itself. The potential will be created for the practice of migrating under a “contract” debt to continue, but with the conditions further worsened, in that the women themselves will not be free to disclose the debt or contract relationship to anyone for fear of disclosing their involvement in a serious criminal offence.

We foresee the proposed laws creating the following:

  • Further marginalisation and the creation of underground "Asian" workplaces
  • A reversal of gains made in health education and service provision to contract and "Asian" sex workers, their private and commercial sexual partners and their families
  • Churning of migratory sex workers who are deported, with increased HIV/AIDS risk for these women due to the scale and nature of the epidemic in countries of origin
  • A reversal of legislative reforms in the sex industry for the "Asian" sector, with additional scrutiny and intervention by authorities essentially re-criminalising this sector. Predicted outcomes;
  • Contract sex workers will experience no contact with anyone other than genuine clients
  • Curtailed and concealed movement, where contract (sex) workers are treated like goods (transported by truck, contained, held indoors)
  • High risk of violence or death if a disclosure occurs, or is thought to have occurred.
  • Creates the potential for genuine consenting “contract” workers to be risking a “one way ticket” such that they complete all of the contract obligations in silence, or risk deportation by the 'boss”, or worse.

Increased potential for violence and forced recruitment

The 300-400 sex workers arranging contracts in order to migrate for work in Australia become "victims of crime" due to the fact that they are to exchange sexual services to repay a debt incurred by the person/s involved. By extrapolation, if the very activity of brokering or facilitating a contract for sex work becomes the basis of offence, then we discourage the current practice of negotiating with sex workers to agree any consensual arrangements, as this will constitute the evidence of an offence. In fact, it may encourage even more offences to occur, as the perpetrators risks are as great whether they recruit a consenting sex worker or not. It must be considered that perpetrators may move toward outright kidnapping and movement of persons against their will, or may simply hold a person in servitude for as long as possible as consent is deemed irrelevant. Under these amendments, consent and the debt itself, no matter whether reasonable or not becomes the key fact in the case.

Does Australia want to increase risks for all, including the women themselves?

The majority of women entering Australia under contract are experienced sex workers, willing to work, keen and financially motivated, with both parties to the contract comfortable in discussing the nature, terms and conditions of the work. Indeed, it is not unusual to find women who have been to Australia, or elsewhere, on sex work contracts before. If these amendments are brought in, there is no advantage to a process of recruitment of sex workers into negotiated contracts. Those taking the risks may as well escalate their "earning to risk" ratio by using violence (which at present they don’t need to do), and choosing more vulnerable, younger, non-sex workers to be forced into work indefinitely.

Migratory Sex Workers will be isolated further.

Scarlet Alliance believes that sex workers will be pushed further underground, cutting the women off from the outside world, service providers and any information sources on their options. Although we understand that some 18 cases of "trafficking for the purposes of sexual servitude" are under investigation, there is little evidence that the high cost, high impact mechanism of joint operations and raids are of benefit to the women involved. Those most in need of information and support- that is genuine contract sex workers, and the few deceptively recruited, forced or coerced individuals are losing contact with services which is a large price to pay for little benefit overall. Our experience has been that women wishing to get out of contract workplaces are, in the main, coming forward of their own accord, and are NOT located by the joint operations.

Potential for corruption is increased

Under the proposed amendments, we foresee situations where AFP and DIMIA officers may be exposed to the potential for corruption, as the only way to embark upon investigations will be to pose as clients. It is our understanding that this is already occurring in Sydney. It is our belief that the Australian Government should not place their agents in such compromising situations.