By JUSTIN COOPER.
Sex work advocates are calling for better protections for sex workers against discrimination, pushing for reforms to decriminalise the industry recently tabled to the NSW Government.
On Friday, November 13, the Scarlet Alliance, Sex Worker Outreach Program and Pride in Protest organisations rallied in Newtown’s Pride Square, calling for reforms under NSW Anti-Discrimination laws.
During the rally, speakers highlighted the current prejudice experienced by sex workers and highlighted the significance of the tabled Equality Bill.
The Equality Legislation Amendment: LGBTQIA+ Bill was introduced to parliament by Sydney MP Alex Greenwich in August, and aims to implement multiple reforms to anti-discrimination legislation. One of the amendments to the Summary Offences Act, seeks to remove offences related to prostitution.
Equal working rights
Scarlet Alliance CEO Mish Pony said the Bill’s amendments would regulate sex work “like any other job,” supporting the rights of workers within the industry.
“Having sex work specific legislation treats sex work as an industry that needs special treatment and drives stigma and discrimination; whereas the evidence is clear that sex workers have better access to our rights when our work is treated like and other work,” said Pony.
“Additionally [the Equality Bill] would provide anti discrimination protections for sex workers in NSW so we have access to mechanisms of redress if discrimination occurs,” they continued.
Pony expressed that sex workers continue to experience discrimination “in all areas” of life. They said that if someone lists their occupation as a sex worker, they can experience major barriers in accessing housing, accommodation, banking and healthcare.
Furthermore, they note marginalised groups, especially workers of Asian background, experience higher rates of discrimination within the industry. Pony said Asian sex workers are “routinely targeted by immigration and/or ‘anti-trafficking’ enforcement” due to racist and sexist narratives.
According to Scarlet Alliances’ 2021-22 Annual Report, there has been an increase in the arrest, harassment and deportation of Asian sex workers due to these “destructive” stereotypes.
“Nationally [Scarlet Alliance] are seeking an end to the raids and targeting of Asian migrant sex workers and workplaces, access to migration pathways, and resourcing for Asian migrant sex worker peer education and advocacy,” Pony continued.
The Scarlett Alliance is the Australia’s peak body for sex workers. The sex workers association is made up of multiple organisations and individual sex workers, advocating for the human rights of workers who supply sexual services.