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"VICTORIAN SEX WORKERS JOIN NATIONAL CONDEMNATION OF ACT GOVERNMENT" 12 Feb 08

VIXEN, the Victorian Sex Industry Network, condemns the actions of the ACT government in relation to the recent charges against a male sex worker. VIXEN spokesperson Ms Tamsin Baker said, “The decision by the ACT’s Chief Health Officer, Charles Guest, to publicly identify the man, his home suburb, his occupation as a sex worker and his health condition is a violation of public health protocols as well as a violation of an individual’s right to privacy. Victorian sex workers believe that these actions fuel stigma and discrimination against individuals who work in the sex industry and people affected by HIV/AIDS.’

Ms Baker also expressed concern at media reporting of the case, saying, ‘We are astounded that in several articles in local, national and international media, the individual’s 250 contacts were equated with 250 people at risk of an STI. Not everyone in a sex worker’s phone is a client, or sexual partner. And because our bodies are our business, we engage in consistent condom use, leading to highly effective safer sex practices that ensure we have lower rates of STI’s than the general community. Sex workers have also played an invaluable role in educating clients about how they can protect themselves. These facts have been lost in sensationalist reporting.’

Ms Baker continued, ‘Underlying these circumstances is poorly constructed ACT legislation, which has similar provisions to those in legislation governing Victorian sex workers. Section 25 of the Prostitution Act 1992 prohibits a person from providing or receiving a commercial sexual service if he or she knows, or are likely to know, that he or she has a sexually transmissible infection. There is a vast difference between being sexually active with a sexually transmissible disease and actually infecting someone, whether in a commercial or personal context. This legislation is unable to acknowledge the shared responsibility involved between consenting adults engaging in sexual activity, or the wide variety of sexual activity that is available posing low or no risk.’

Ms Baker called on governments and media to engage with sex work communities in developing policy responses and reporting on issues affecting the industry. She said, ‘This case highlights yet again that sex workers are marginalised from policy development and from media discussions of our work and our bodies. Sex workers should be consulted on issues affecting them.’

Ms Baker concluded, ‘Victorian sex workers stand in solidarity with the man arrested in the ACT and call for an immediate investigation into the actions of the ACT Chief Health Officer. We also call for an amendment to S.25 of the Prostitution Act 1992, and similar pieces of legislation across Australia, to remove discriminatory provisions that impact negatively on sex workers’ bodies, workplaces and livelihoods.’

VIXEN further endorses the comments made by national associations including: