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Joint Statement on Sex Worker Workplace Closures

Joint Statement on Sex Work Workplace Closures from Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association; Respect Inc, QLD; SIN, SA; SWEAR, WA; SWOP ACT; SWOP NT; SWOP NSW; VIXEN Collective, VIC

The Prime Minister of Australia issued a list of additional businesses to close on the 25th March 2020. The additional closures include brothels, strip clubs and massage parlours and will apply from 11.59PM AEDT, 25 March 2020.

All eligible sex workers in Australia, including sex workers who work in brothels, strip clubs or massage parlours are advised to apply for the income support available from the Commonwealth Government by lodging a Register an Intention to Claim for that support.

We acknowledge that many sex workers in Australia are unable to access this support for a variety of reasons, and we are working on measures to support those who fall through the gaps. If you are able to provide support we would encourage you to donate to the fundraiser to support sex workers, run by Scarlet Alliance and its member organisations at https://chuffed.org/project/emergency-support-sex-workers-Australia.

All proceeds goes directly to sex workers in need. This will not be enough to meet the demand but will assist in bridging the gap until essential government support is provided.

Many sex workers are currently excluded from the stimulus packages announced by the government. We urge the government to provide adequate means of crisis support for all sex workers. Like other Australians, sex workers have been devastatingly impacted by coronavirus. But for the majority of sex workers, we have had incomes diminish or stop completely, without access to sick pay, annual leave or superannuation.

Loss of income has meant loss of shelter, inability to access food, healthcare, medications and other basic necessities for sex workers and their dependents. Due to the still pervasive stigma and discrimination against sex workers and criminality of sex work across a number of jurisdictions in Australia, the ability of sex workers to access existing support is significantly hampered. Scarlet Alliance and our member organisations across Australia have called on the government to provide emergency funding to our organisations to distribute among sex workers most in need and currently ineligible for support.

Scarlet Alliance is creating a central information point and will provide updates at http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/scarlet/COVID-19/

Scarlet Alliance and our member organisations do not condone the use of police powers to enforce public health orders. There is substantial evidence that demonstrates the inappropriateness of police involvement in public health responses. We would strongly advise against use of fines and penalties against an already financially strained population.

As was our experience in the AIDS pandemic in Australia, appropriate public health messaging and the resourcing of community education, including peer education, is the most effective way to change behaviour in the community.

Sex workers have demonstrated their leadership in public health and prevention strategies evidenced by the continued low rates of HIV and STIs among sex workers. Sex workers have already commenced implementing social distancing measures, advanced screening of clients, additional use of personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures and changes of service to online, phone, and other non-contact services.

Our sex worker organisations will be continuing to provide information, outreach and support during this period. For a list of contacts in each state and territory please visit https://redbook.scarletalliance.org.au/home/sex-worker-orgs/