Scarlet Alliance

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"Scarlet Alliance responds to Chris Seage, Crikey.com, 16 May 2007

Scarlet Alliance would appreciate the opportunity to respond to some of the allegations made in a recent Crikey.com article by ABA representative, Chris Seage.....

Firstly, we should clarify who we actually are. With his talk of "taxpayer funding" and "humble beginnings selling condoms", it seems Chris Seage has confused us, perhaps intentionally, with a state-based sex worker organisation. Scarlet Alliance is the Australian Sex Workers Association. Scarlet Alliance does not "purport to represent sex workers" – we are the sex workers.

Chris Seage claims that our recent correspondence to the ABA "expresses support for the seedy underworld trade of illegal brothels". He substantiates that claim by quoting sections of our letter, including "We do not support the illegal industry, nor do we support the legal industry" and "The current news and other reports about the sex industry being dirty, unsafe, illegal, and so on is not going to help anyone in the industry."

We do not believe, as Chris Seage does, that council approval somehow magically transforms a business from "seedy" to "respectable." As the Australian Sex Workers Association, our concern is the health and safety of sex workers, not the legality of their workplace. There are many "illegal" brothels around Australia providing a level of workplace safety, cleanliness and business ethics that would put some "legal" brothels to shame. So no, we do not distinguish between legal and illegal when advocating for the industrial rights of sex workers.

And yes, we believe the ABA’s assertions that unapproved premises are "dirty, unsafe and corrupt" are potentially damaging to the entire sex industry. Such statements simply reinforce and perpetuate the myth that sex industry businesses are incapable of operating professionally without strict regulations and constant supervision.

The list of 775 illegal brothels that Seage frequently refers to, for all its inaccuracies and exaggerations, must be recognised for what it really is – a publicity stunt by a group of larger businesses trying to knock out their competition.

The recent attack on Scarlet Alliance must also be seen for what it is – an "employer" association attempting to discredit and belittle an "employee" association. As is the case in any industry, the needs of sex industry business owners often differ to those of the individuals who work for them. However, the ABA appear to be going to great lengths to keep sex workers out of the current discussion, to the point where they would release confidential correspondence – which a more professional association would have tabled at their next meeting, rather than posting to the internet – and hold us up to ridicule in an attempt to silence us.

But what, exactly, are the ABA trying to prevent us from saying? And more to the point…why?

Meg Marshall Secretary Scarlet Alliance, The Australian Sex Workers Association http://www.scarletalliance.org.au