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"AUSTRALIAN SEX WORK EXPERTS DENOUNCE ANTI- SEX WORKER LOBBYIST EKBERT AND THE SWEDISH LAWS" 20 September 2007

European paid lobbyists who have flown in to oppose WA’s clearer approach to the sex industry are making unsubstantiated claims about the outcome of decriminalisation. “As the Australian experts on sex work, Scarlet Alliance suggests that Ms Ekbert brush up on the issues facing sex workers in her own country before she comes here to tell us what’s best for the occupational health and safety of sex workers in Australia.”

“Ekbert has got it wrong,” Janelle Fawkes asserted today. “The sex industry is legal in most parts of Australia and New Zealand, and this has not resulted in an increase in the number of brothels or sex workers.”

The sex industry has been legal in the ACT and Northern Territory since 1992, Victoria since 1994, New South Wales since 1996, and Queensland since 1999. Western Australia has been discussing law reform since the early ‘90s.

Sex workers in Sweden strongly deny there is any evidence of a reduction in prostitution in Sweden. In fact sex workers in Sweden describe changing where and how they work in order to cater to the needs of clients who are attempting to avoid detection and prosecution. Instead of clients visiting a sex workers home or established workspace sex workers are forced to meet clients in public places, bars etc to lessen the chance of police detection of their clients. This means sex workers have less control over who knows they are sex working, are more likely to be "set up" by time wasters and pranksters that are not clients.

“Sex workers vulnerability is increased by the Swedish laws. Rather than negotiating services in a space they have organised for themselves, taking into account their own needs for confidentiality, privacy, safety, access to safe sex supplies etc, it is instead negotiated in a public space,” said Janelle Fawkes, of Scarlet Alliance.

"From a public health point of view, sensible management of the sex industry is vital for preventing the spread of HIV and other infections," Dr Charles Watson, Professor of Health Sciences at Curtin University, said today. "Prohibition strategies in the sex industry have a long history of failure. Most Australian states have sensibly decriminalised prostitution and the result is good for the community and the sex workers. The opponents of this approach are asking us to step back into the nineteenth century." “In Australia, sex workers are a priority group for HIV and sexually transmissible infection prevention efforts. This has proven to be an effective approach, resulting in low rates of HIV and sexually transmissible infections,” Janelle Fawkes reiterated. “Sweden’s policy position on sex workers health takes an opposite approach to Australia. Our success is based on including sex workers in public health responses. Sweden’s approach is to promote the closure of the sex industry. This has not worked for a hundred years in Australia, is not working in Sweden, and would be a backward and illogical step for Western Australia to consider.”

“Clearly the Swedish laws are not working for sex workers. Australia has a unique sex industry probably because of laws which support women’s choice to work in this occupation if they choose,” Janelle Fawkes asserted today. “Australians accept that the location where consensual sex work between adults takes place should be regulated, but the activity itself, the buyer and the seller, should not be criminally prohibited. Ekbert and CATW are not in touch, and are attempting to export the failing Swedish system into the already advanced law reform process in Western Australia.”

“The Swedish model of sex industry legislation has negative impacts on the work lives and work practices of sex workers in Sweden.” Janelle Fawkes, Scarlet Alliance said today. “By contrast Australian sex workers enjoy good working conditions and incremental gains in human rights and access to justice. The Western Australian reforms are a minor, but important, next step in what has been a thirty year process in this country.”

Media Contacts: Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association Charles Watson, Professor of Health Sciences at Curtin University