"Response to Victorian Recommendations into trafficking for sex work" 2010
Download Victorian Parliamentary Committee into Drug and Crime Prevention Recommendations, and from an external website link here 1.6 meg
These recommendations, if implemented, will criminalise, marginalise and further hurt migrant and non- migrant sex workers in Victoria; a group who already face the most overbearing regulatory structures and health policies pertaining to sex workers in Australia, and enjoy occupational health and safety worse than that of their criminalised colleagues (Western Australia) and far behind those in a decriminalised setting (New South Wales).
Sex workers live with dignity; Ban Ki Moon urges: “We can remove punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block effective responses to AIDS.” Migrant sex workers in Victoria are a community affected by HIV and these recommendations risk increasing sex workers vulnerability, reducing their human rights and increasing police corruption.
The undersigned express opposition to all of the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry:
One: The Committee recommends that the Government should establish a whole of government Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit. The Office should be located under the responsibility of the Attorney-General in the Department of Justice.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Sex work in Victoria is licensed by the Business Licensing Authority and regulated by Consumer Affairs Victoria. A new unit is not needed.
TWO: The Committee recommends that the role of the Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit should include: the regulation and monitoring of all aspects of Victoria’s sex industry (brothels, escort services and all other registered sexual service providers).
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Victoria is already a highly regulated sex work licensed environment (see above) and does not need new regulation. The licensing system already encourages discriminatory behavior against sex workers, (i) a potential factor in trafficking prevalence; extending this system may create more harms for sex workers, migrant sex workers, and sex workers affected by trafficking.
THREE: The Committee recommends that the Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit should establish and support an expert Sex Trafficking Advisory Group to provide ongoing formal consultation with government and nongovernment organisations, representatives from the sex industry, and other community groups.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Trafficking is a crime that affects a range of workers in Victoria – not just sex workers. A trafficking advisory group already exists on a national level – the Attorney Generals Roundtable on People Trafficking. We concur with roundtable member Associate Professor Jennifer Burn from the Anti Slavery Project at the University of Technology Sydney* in the statement “I think this growing picture of the reality of trafficking and slavery really highlights the need to look at these issues holistically across whole country." Associate Professor Sharon Pickering and Dr Marie Segrave of the criminology department at Monash University concur: “The risk we run of such a selective inquiry is a limited understanding of the broader realities that contribute to and sustain exploitative practices.”
FOUR: The Committee recommends that clear protocols outlining areas of responsibilities and methods of collaboration and communication be developed between relevant State agencies. This includes local councils, police, Consumer Affairs, and health inspectors. Protocols should be reviewed on a yearly basis to ensure that staff maintain awareness about trafficking and sexual servitude.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Trafficking is a human rights and labour rights issue. Any protocols relating to trafficking awareness must encompass occupational health and safety approaches and a human rights framework – a focus on regulation, inspections and police alone will potentially marginalise sex workers even further and reduce rather than expand their human rights.
FIVE: The Committee recommends that an offence of debt bondage similar to that found in the Commonwealth Criminal Code be enacted in Victoria.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE There is no benefit in replicating existing Commonwealth Criminal Code laws. The Commonwealth Criminal Code laws apply in Victoria which make the proposed recommendation superfluous.
SIX: The Committee recommends that intentionally, knowingly or recklessly obtaining sexual services from trafficked women is criminalised in Victoria.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Police regulation of the activity of sex worker clients in Victoria opens the door for corruption, is virtually impossible to enforce, and shifts the focus of trafficking activity from a cross-border environment (ie lack of access to visa’s creates a market for trafficking) to a end-consumer focus. In the long term it is a fruitless exercise and will have no material impact on the prevalence of trafficking in sex work in Victoria, in the short term it will create an incubator for police corruption and the infringements of the human rights and civil liberties of Victorians generally. Similar laws in Sweden have harmed sex workers.(ii)
SEVEN: The Committee recommends that sanctions against brothel owners who have intentionally, knowingly or recklessly allowed trafficked women to work in their premises be introduced in Victoria. Such sanctions will more effectively act as a deterrent to the conduct of servitude and trafficking in the licensed sex industry. In cases where intention or recklessness is proved the owner should be liable to losing his or her permit to run a brothel or other sex service provider business and/or be liable to heavy financial penalties.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Victorian brothel owners are already heavily regulated within a tight licensing framework, and are subject to Commonwealth Criminal Code prosecutions for trafficking, sexual servitude, debt bondage and related crimes if they occur. Increased fines will not reduce the prevalence of trafficking and will only harm sex workers by pushing their workplaces underground and further marginalising them.
EIGHT: The Committee recommends that trafficking in persons be regarded as a higher priority policing issue. As such, dedicated officers within the Victoria Police Sexual Offences (Theme Desk) should be given responsibility to liaise with other members of Victoria Police, relevant state and Commonwealth government officials including AFP officers and the proposed Sex Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit in operational and organisational matters pertaining to sex trafficking.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Trafficking is already more highly prosecuted in Victoria than in any other state or territory in Australia – increasing the number of dedicated officers will not reduce the prevalence of trafficking. A continued focus on the prosecution side of trafficking to the detriment on building relationships with the affected communities(ie migrant sex workers) will only harm migrant sex workers affected by trafficking, and further marginalise them from access to justice.
NINE: The Committee recommends that with regard to their role in investigating sex trafficking Victoria Police develop clear protocols regarding communication and collaboration with relevant NGOs.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE There is nothing stopping the Victorian Police and NGOs developing communication protocols now – if such parties believe it to be useful. This does not require action from Government.
TEN: The Committee recommends that Victoria Police have a more flexible right of entry to brothels (legal or illegal) for monitoring purposes, ie. the ability to do spotchecks.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Victorian Police already have right of entry to brothels in Victoria, as they do to any workplace, with a warrant or similar paperwork. Relaxing such requirements will breed corruption and will not reduce the prevalence of trafficking or increase prosecutions. Increased police presence in sex worker workplaces will harm sex workers and reduce access to justice for sex workers – Police are unable to act as protectors when they are also called upon to be prosecutors.
ELEVEN: The Committee recommends that licence conditions for sex work service providers include granting access to gazetted or nominated support agencies.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Brothels are a workplace and like any other workplace they should have the right to run their businesses with out organisations with an anti-sex work agenda intruding upon their work. Scarlet Alliance outreach in Victoria uncovered an over accessed, fatigued and over exposed industry that is exhausted from the number of NGO’s, researchers, churches, regulators and government agencies constantly demanding access to their premises. iii Increased access will potentially infringe upon sex workers right to privacy and confidentiality.
TWELVE: The Committee recommends that the Victorian Government develop a comprehensive, best practice public education campaign to increase public awareness about sex trafficking; including its nature, extent, causes, myths and consequences. Such a campaign should be coordinated by the Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit and targeted to a wide range of audiences.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Sex trafficking is a subset of labour trafficking – isolating information about trafficking to sex work alone harms sex workers and overlooks others affected by this crime. Sex work does not cause trafficking and clients of sex workers do not cause trafficking. Running the proposed campaign will only serve to further marginalise migrant sex workers and confuse the general public about the causes of trafficking. Similar campaigns in other countries have not reduced the prevalence of trafficking or increased successful prosecutions.
THIRTEEN: The Committee recommends that such a campaign be accompanied by an appropriate dedicated website with suitable educational materials.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Any education about trafficking should be broad to encompass all industries and be linked to information in multiple languages about access to visas and human rights in Australia. A website dedicated to sex work trafficking will not assist the public’s understanding of this crime or reduce the prevalence of trafficking in Australia. A website with a broad focus is already being funded by the Commonwealth Attorney Generals Department with nationally relevant information, produced by the Anti-Slavery Project. Replicating this in Victoria will be a waste of money and resources.
FOURTEEN: The Committee recommends that the Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit place advertisements warning prospective customers of sexual services as to the existence of the crime of sex trafficking. Such notices should be placed prominently in the Personal or Adult Services sections of state, territory and local newspapers and any websites advertising sexual service providers, as appropriate.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Advertising of this nature has already been run for almost five years nationally in Australia and has not reduced the prevalence of trafficking or led to a single successful prosecution. Trafficking is relevant to all labour industries in Australia. Focusing advertising on sex work will only lead to marginalisation, misunderstanding and harm for sex workers – increasing the misconception that we are easy targets of crime and may result in increased crimes against sex workers.
FIFTEEN: The Committee recommends that training on sex trafficking and its consequences be made an essential and recurring part of the vocational training programs of generalist and specialist groups likely to encounter people who have been trafficked. The Sex Industry, Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit should coordinate this training.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Any training pertaining to trafficking should encompass all industries and not focus soley on sex work. A focus on work is discriminatory and will lead to others who are affected by this crime to be overlooked.
SIXTEEN: The Committee recommends that police, the City of Melbourne, local councils through the VLGA and/or MAV, health inspectors and Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit inspectors are given specialised training to recognize sexual slavery, to refer such a matter to appropriate authorities and services, and to respond adequately to victims of trafficking, servitude and debt bondage.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE As above, training on trafficking crimes should encompass all labour sectors. It is inappropriate to focus soley on sex work and will ultimately lead to sex workers being disproportionately and unfairly targeted by regulatory bodies including the City of Melbourne.
SEVENTEEN: The Committee recommends that appropriate NGOs who support trafficked women be provided with additional resources to continue and extend their involvement in the training of police, municipal officers, sex industry regulators and other relevant persons. EIGHTEEN: The Committee recommends that members of the magistracy, judiciary and legal profession be given appropriate training on the issue of trafficking where it is reasonable to expect such professionals may become involved with trafficking cases. Such training could be provided by NGOs with relevant experience working in conjunction with representative legal bodies such as the Victorian Judicial College (judges and magistrates), the Victorian Law Institute (solicitors and legal workers), the Victorian Bar Council and/or the Commonwealth Office of Public Prosecutions (Victoria) (Prosecutors).
RESPONSE to both above: OPPOSE There is a clear conflict of interest in this recommendation – with the Chair of the Committee and NGO’s that they are a board member of. This conflict of interest should have been stated prior to the Committees investigation. Training to date has not reduced prevalence of trafficking in Victoria.
NINETEEN: The Committee recommends NGOs be encouraged and resourced to establish and further develop (in cases where already happening) exit strategies to support trafficked women wanting to leave the sex industry. Such a program would be aimed at providing such women with alternative skills and employment.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Exit programs have anecdotally been reported to have negative impacts on the sex workers within such programs. The assumption that sex workers affected by trafficking need special assistance with skills and employment undermines the ability of sex workers to integrate into existing tafe, university, higher education and community education courses. Specialist run programs pathologise those referred into the program – and success rates in Queensland are so low we question any Government spending in such an area. This recommendation is NOT supported by evidence, and is pushing a dangerous agenda of removing people from sex work potentially against their will or through coercion via financial incentive, shame and stigma.
TWENTY: The Committee recommends that the proposed Sex Industry, Regulation, Policy Coordination Unit encourages and resources the development of exit strategies and programs for women who wish to leave the sex industry, particularly trafficked women.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE As above, there is no evidence to support either sex workers wanting such a service, and when these services have existed they risk harming sex workers through promoting a specific anti-sex work stance to people who generally do not regret their time in sex work. Research shows that sex workers in Australia, including those affected by trafficking, have a level of education similar to others from their demographic – as such access to other work is comparable.(iv) There is nothing inherently wrong with staying in sex work – leaving a job is an individualised decision and is not an appropriate intervention by the State Government of Victoria.
TWENTYONE: The Committee recommends that the Sex Industry, Regulation, Policy Coordination Unit assesses and monitors these exit programs to ensure best practice models are followed.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE This recommendation recognises the harms inherent in programs that aim to remove sex workers from sex work (as asserted above). It is preferable for sex workers to access mainstream training and work opportunities, rather than pathologise the training and employment needs of sex workers with particular Government funded programming.
TWENTYTWO: The Committee recommends that the Victorian Government establish appropriately funded refuges for trafficked women in Victoria.
RESPONSE: Such a service is only of value if those housed are permitted to continue/return to sex work if they wish. Any such service that makes exiting sex work a precondition of support risks harming sex workers and further marginalising those affected by trafficking.
TWENTYTHREE: The Committee recognises that victims of trafficking need comprehensive assistance and support. Therefore the Committee recommends that relevant NGOs working with trafficked women be further resourced to provide appropriate services to trafficked women.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE As previously stated, Judy Maddigans’ conflict of interest in this recommendation should have been stated. Such a service will not reduce prevalence of trafficking. Sex worker services in Victoria are currently under-resourced, with lack of access to peer support, virtually no outreach outside the metropolitan areas, and repetitive pilot funding for target groups with little or no political commitment to long term funding for a stand-alone sex worker organisation. Isolating funding support for those affected by trafficking does nothing to prevent trafficking, and only perpetuates the victim status of those in a trafficking-like situation.
TWENTYFOUR: The Committee recommends that any person found to have been a victim of trafficking in Australia be eligible for crimes compensation under the relevant state compensation scheme.
RESPONSE: These individuals are already eligible for victim of crime compensation schemes.
TWENTYFIVE: The Committee recommends that a Research Advisory Panel on sex trafficking issues be established within the proposed Sex Industry Regulation, Policy and Coordination Unit. Such a panel should include relevant experts in the area from academic, government and community sectors.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE Recent Scarlet Alliance outreach in Victoria found that migrant sex workers are experiencing research fatigue from being over accessed by researchers and NGO’s. The Commonwealth Government already funds the Australian Institute of Criminology to do national research on all forms of trafficking. Victorian NGO’s and experts could benefit from partnering with national bodies rather than duplicating them on a state level – trafficking is a national crime and uninfluenced by state and territory borders.
TWENTYSIX: The Committee recommends that a research agenda and program be established to address sex trafficking into Victoria. This should be coordinated by the Sex Trafficking Policy and Coordination Unit and include input from the Research Advisory Panel as outlined in recommendation 24. The research agenda should prioritise the research issues that have been identified in the practice and academic literature and also reflected in the expert opinion of those who gave evidence to this Inquiry.
RESPONSE: OPPOSE As above, there is a risk of harm to sex workers if/when isolated and uncoordinated state based research pursues a research agenda that is already pursued and coordinated nationally. Victoria risks wasting state based resources, and increasing the existing research fatigue among people affected by trafficking in Victoria. Any research that treats sex work as an isolated environment for trafficking, duplicates existing research projects, and/or lacks appropriate control groups, risk harming participants, exposing sex workers affected by trafficking to unnecessary research projects, increasing opportunities for breaches of confidentiality and privacy.
TWENTYSEVEN: The Committee recommends that the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee of the 57 Parliament of Victoria undertake an Inquiry into Human Trafficking for reasons other than sexual servitude. RESPONSE: OPPOSE Such an Inquiry would be best examined by a Committee that specialises in industrial rights, occupational health and safety, civil approaches to labour laws and the human rights of migrant labour, including sex work. Sex work should be included as one industry among many who are affected by trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE VICTORIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE TO THE COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT:
ONE: The Committee recommends that the use of victim impact statements in all cases of sentencing be adopted in Commonwealth crimes involving sex trafficking.
RESPONSE: This recommendation should be taken to the Attorney Generals Roundtable on people trafficking for consideration.
TWO: The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth produce relevant educational and information materials informing visitors to Australia on the risks and consequences of sex trafficking be developed for dissemination at points of disembarkation on arrival to Australia (airports, sea ports etc).
THREE: The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with NGOs liaise with relevant "source countries" to extend and further develop information packages with regard to the sex industry (including its legal status in most Australian states), sex trafficking and its consequences to deter women in the country of origin from being trafficked to Australia.
RESPONSE to both above: This is already occurring at a national level.
- Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association *
- Respect Inc. Queensland
- Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) NT
- Sex Industry Network (SIN) South Australia
- Empower Foundation, Thailand
- Zi Teng, Hong Kong
- 日日春關懷互助協會 COSWAS, Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters, Taiwan
- Licia Brussa, TAMPEP Coordinator, TAMPEP (European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers)
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)
- Desiree Alliance (USA)
- Sex Workers Outreach Project USA
- Sex Workers Outreach Project Las Vegas
- Pascale Robitaille, team coordinator, Stella, Montreal
- Asia Catalyst
- Maria McMahon, Former Manager Sex Workers Outreach Project NSW and Sex Services Planning Advisory Panel, NSW Government *
- Julie Bates, Principal, Urban Realists Planning & Health Consultants, Consultant to Law & Sex Worker Health Project (LASH) for the University of NSW National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research & Faculty of Law and University of Melbourne Sexual Health Unit School of Population Health
- Christine Harcourt, Researcher, Law & Sex Worker Health Project (LASH) for the University of NSW National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research and Faculty of Law and University of Melbourne Sexual Health Unit School of Population Health *
- Roberta Perkins, Researcher and Author, “Call Girls” UWA Press, Australia, 2007
- Fiona Patten, Christian Vega, Ari Reid and Serrana Shutt, Australian Sex Party and Senate Candidates for Victoria (Fiona and Christian), South Australia (Ari Reid) and Northern Territory (Seranna Shutt)
* Denotes individuals/organisations who have gave written and/or verbal evidence to the Victorian Inquiry.
i Christine Harcourt, Sandra Egger and Basil Donovan “Sex work and the Law,” Sexual Health, CSIRO Publishing and MINNIS Communications, 2005, 2, 121-128, pg 126 www.publish.csiro.au/journals/sh
ii Petra Ostergren in Ulrika Oredsson “Interview with Petra Östergren - Prostitution Law,” Lund University, 28 Jan 2010, and Johannes Eriksson, The “Swedish model” – arguments, consequences presented at Green Ladies’ Lunch, “Prostitution in Europa – Nationale Gesetze und europapolitische Perspektiven” 16 March 2005, Berlin , and Gunilla Ekberg in Damien Carrick “Prostitution in WA” The Law Report, ABC Radio National, 25 September 2007, and SCOT-PEP "33 Reasons why the clients of sex workers should not be criminalised".
iii Scarlet Alliance Migration Pilot Project presentation to National Anti-Trafficking Networking meeting, 3 June, 2010
iv Cathy Pell, Jeffrey Dabbhadatta, Christine Harcourt, Kate Tribe, Catherine O'Connor, "Demographic, migration status, and work-related changes in Asian female sex workers surveyed in Sydney, 1993 and 2003," in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 30, no. 2 (2006):157–62
S PICKERING, M SEGRAVE “ Broader vision is needed to combat human trafficking; A government inquiry missed the point in focusing only on sex.” The Age, June 21, 2010 Link here
Updated 24 August 2010