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SWOP NT - SWRG Media Release. D17

PRESS RELEASE: 17 Dec 17 from SWOP/NT and SWRG

December 17 is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Northern Territory Sex Workers remember D17!!

D17 is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event began on 17th December 2003 to honour and memorialise the sex workers who were murdered by Seattle’s Green River Killer, in the USA.

Northern Territory sex workers and our organisations, the Sex Worker Outreach Program (SWOP NT in the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council) and the Sex Worker Reference Group (SWRG) came together to honour and mourn our murdered work colleagues at Adelaide River over the weekend. There is not a past or current sex worker in the NT who is not aware of the brutal murder of two of our sisters in 2004.

We stand united with sex workers across the globe to advocate for a world that does not involve violence against us purely because we are sex workers. Violence is verbal, it is physical, it is hidden and it is written in laws that criminalise us. We pledged to work towards respect and reform that will eradicate hate crimes against us.

We have to remove dangerous laws and address the social stigma and discrimination that incites violence against sex workers. As sex workers we acutely feel the impact of criminalisation and policing practices that perpetrate violence against us. The NT system of registration creates ‘perceived criminalisation’ via the unjustified police involvement in the regulation of sex work. This creates barriers to sex workers seeking to access support or justice when they experience violence and sends a message to perpetrators that sex workers can be targeted without legal consequences.

In the NT mandatory lifelong police registration is required if working at a registered escort agency. Private sex workers must work alone out of hotels and/or provide services at the private homes of clients. Sex workers who are not registered with an agency and who work privately with another worker, with a driver, or as street workers, are criminalised.

These strict conditions imposed on sex workers, operators, receptionists, managers and drivers have caused extensive harm, leave us exposed to the risk of violence and stigmatisation and discrimination, particularly with frequent inappropriate disclosure of our private information within the industry and externally. There are numerous examples of discrimination against us including: a registered sex worker out of the industry for 15 years being denied an ochre card, disclosure at barbecues, in the media and in custody disputes.

SWOP NT and the SWRG are calling for full decriminalisation of sex work in the Northern Territory to ensure privacy, safer working choices and safe workplace environments.

The SWOP NT Parliamentary submissions to the NSW Inquiry into the Regulation of Brothels and in support of the South Australian Sex Work Bill, state that ‘the decriminalisation of sex is supported globally by sex workers as key stakeholders, and health and legal professionals all over the world have endorsed decriminalisation of sex work to ensure sex workers’ human rights are actively supported. Ratified as best practice by respected academics and organisations including Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association , the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) , The Lancet medical journal, Amnesty International, the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW) , and the Network of Sex Worker Projects (NSWP)’.

Catherine Gray from the SWRG said "I am a 30-something married woman, I am just like any other 30-year old married woman that you know, and I deserve dignity, privacy, justice, and freedom from stigma and discrimination just like everyone else.

Decriminalisation of sex work would break down barriers that sex workers like me face when trying to work safely and seek justice for crimes perpetrated against us. I want to see the Northern Territory decriminalise sex work and take that leap to making my sex worker peers safe in our community!"

Leanne Melling, Co-coordinator of SWOP NT said that “when people put in complaints in relation to businesses where sex or erotic services on premises takes place, they need to understand that they are promoting violence against sex workers, not only in the way the raids are conducted but also they need to understand the negative impacts on sex workers lives after these raids. These raids perpetuate further stigma, discrimination and disrespect that promotes violence against sex workers. It is appalling behaviour against individuals who are earning an income as workers.

I think that most Territorians and our politicians would be horrified if they knew what takes place at these raids on sex workers workspaces. Border Force and the police take pictures of people with contents of tipped out bins, and or their personal belongings in front of them strewn on the floor, it is inhumane.

Every time there are raids in spaces where sex workers work and condoms are sought as evidence by authorities there is a huge impact on sex workers trust of not just authorities but health services. SWOP NT has a SWOP shop where we sell bulk safer sex supplies, we see the impacts of these raids in our sales statistics - it takes a couple of months for sex workers to feel trust to access even our services as a peer only educational support network, even our ability to conduct outreach is impacted, fear remains and mistrust of services”

With such high statistics of Sexually Transmittable Infections (STIs) and Blood Born Viruses (BBVs) such as HIV and untreated Hepatitis B in the Northern Territory, we should be rewarding the work of sex workers as the safer sex educators who have extremely high knowledge of prevention and treatment and testing for STIs, not penalising workers with operating under a raid and rescue model. Sex workers don’t need rescuing, we need legislative protections that parallel workers’ rights, and human rights just like other workers”

SWOP NT knows that “these impacts are even more keenly felt by sex workers who are disproportionately affected by stigma, discrimination, criminalisation and violence such as transwomen, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sex workers and other sex workers of colour, street based and rurally isolated sex workers, sex workers who use drugs, and migrant sex workers. On December 17th, we recognise we cannot end the marginalisation and victimisation of all sex workers without also fighting against racism, stigma, transphobia, criminalisation of people who use drugs and prejudicial intolerance”.

Ashley Raise from the SWRG said “I should have the right to work without laws that discriminate against me, that try to force me to register for life with the police commissioner just because I don’t want to work alone. I won’t, so these laws criminalise me for trying to work safely with another worker or for a parlour operator with other workers. These rotten laws subject us to violence. I want laws that protect me not put me in danger. I should have the right to privacy and to work freely in my choice of employment. I don’t want to have to stress out about when police might raid my work space because I am trying to work safely, no wonder I don’t want to register with them”

Skye Ozanne Co-coordinator SWOP NT said “Decriminalising sex work is able to be achieved simply by abolishing the Northern Territory Prostitution Regulation Act, alongside ensuring that sex workers are able to be protected by respective Workplace Health & Safety and Anti-Discrimination legislation. There is already existing NT business legislation that would facilitate avenues for these reforms”

Skye said “The evidence clearly shows that decriminalisation is the world-renowned, best practice model for sex work. Decriminalisation facilitates higher rates of compliance, minimal opportunities for corruption & exploitation, increased transparency of the Industry and most importantly improved safety for sex workers”

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17 December

December 17th 2019, Statement from SWOP NT and SWRG
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers!
Northern Territory sex workers and our organisations, the... READ MORE