A joint project of Scarlet Alliance and AFAO Sept. 1999
Written by Linda Banach (AFAO) and Edited by Sue Metzenrath (Scarlet Alliance)
This was produced with the assistance of sex workers who participated in the survey upon which the report was based Also thanks to Darryl O’Donnell, Tim Leach, Chris Ward, Julia Cabassi and the staff employed at sex worker community organisations who distributed the survey.
Discrimination and harassment are a fact of life for the majority of sex workers. The Australian Capital Territory is the only Australian jurisdiction which protects sex workers from discrimination on the grounds of their occupation.”
This document is a lobbying tool based on national research conducted with sex workers regarding their experiences of discrimination. It provides arguments for broadening State and Territory anti-discrimination provisions to cover occupational discrimination, overviews the current legal situation across Australia, and identifies strategies for advocacy and activism.
Five arguments for anti-discrimination protections for sex workers are discussed; discrimination harms sex workers, discrimination impedes health promotion activities, discrimination undermines regulatory objectives, anti-discrimination protections are a human right and these protections can be easily implemented.
The basis for this paper is the qualitative research gathered during the 1999 National Survey of sex workers. The findings of the research asking sex workers about their experiences of discrimination were; restrictions on working as a sex worker, health restrictions, use of condoms as evidence in prosecution, bad relations with police, lack of industrial protections, restrictions on movement, discrimination against sex worker associates (boyfriends, friends and family), discriminatory advertising practices (by publishers, newspapers, advertisers and staff at newspapers) and other forms of discrimination such as being refused credit cards and housing. People filling in the survey also had an opportunity to suggest what legal changes could be made to combat discrimination, and the most popular responses are listed.
Each state and territory in Australia is critiqued for its laws and current remedies in the case of discrimination are explored. These suggestions of action to take in the case of discrimination are a great resource for self advocacy. The paper then goes on to propose systemic strategies of action including decriminalisation and anti-discrimination laws.
The Appendix includes recommendations from the Intergovernmental Committee on AIDS Legal Working Party and a full description of research methods and demographics of the group that was surveyed in the research.