Sex Work & Violence

About Sex Work, Sex Work & Violence

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On Sunday night, the 17th of February 2013, I got a distressed call from a young sex worker in Cairns.  For the purpose of this Blog her name shall be Gemma.

Gemma had taken an enquiry from a man calling himself Will.  He seemed warm, polite and friendly.  They agreed on a price, time and place for a 1 hour outcall at an upmarket hotel in Cairns along the Esplanade.  She took her time getting ready, making the effort to look and feel her best.  She chose light make-up, a lovely but casual dress and 3 inch heels.  Her supplies of condoms and lube were tucked away in an evening bag.  She headed out the door…

Gemma arrived on time and made her way up to the third floor.  A well dressed man in his late 20’s, early 30’s opened the door, smiled and let her in.  She looked around the room and noticed empty beer bottles and pizza boxes.  She made the comment “Oh is this your bachelor pad?” laughing and gesturing toward the mess in a friendly manner to break the ice.  He laughed and said “something like that”.  Then another male of around the same age came out of a side room.  Then another and another and another.  Five in total were in the room and making smiles and lewd gestures toward her.

Gemma asked to speak with Will, looking at the guy who opened the door for her.  He replied that Will wasn’t there, that they had borrowed his phone and that they wanted to ‘party’ with her.  Right about now she realised she was in her worst nightmare.  She stated firmly and calmly that she had made an hour booking with Will and that there was no mention of anyone else being involved.  They offered her more money and encouraged her to sit down.  Gemma declined.  One of them pushed a chair in behind her knee’s to force her to sit down but she remained standing.  They had been drinking.

By this time Gemma is trying to reposition herself away from the men crowding around her, to move closer to the door.  As she was trying to extricate herself, repeatedly stating that she was not going ahead with the booking, one of the five stated “Prostitution is illegal in Australia and you have to fuck us!”.  Another started yelling at her “get in the fucking bedroom!”.  She managed to manoeuvre herself in to the kitchen before making a dash for the exit, deliberately knocking everything she could off the kitchen bench onto the floor.  She made it out of the door and down to reception. shaken and in shock.  She phoned her boyfriend who came over immediately to pick her up outside the hotel.  He told reception what Gemma had told him.

Gemma is a 24 year old woman.  She lives alone with her pet dog and Goldfish.  She has a boyfriend whom works away for a couple of weeks at a time and who is supportive of her choice of work in the interim.  They both have goals and aspirations for their future together.

Like a lot of sex workers, Gemma entered into the sex industry to ease social and economic pressures.  A cash income meant she could begin to create an independent life for herself and pool her resources into savings, learning and up-skilling, ultimately to improve her chances of competing in a modern society.  A global financial crisis resulting in fewer job opportunities, and tighter budget constraints combined with poor leadership and cowardly politicians like Queensland’s Attorney-General, Honourable? Jarrad Bleijie and Mr Premier Campbell-Newman pissing all over human rights, targeting our most vulnerable in society, leaves little hope for our young people to see any kind of future.

This scenario could have been much worse.  Gemma was a very lucky young woman to have escaped from those lowlife scum who dared to call themselves men.  Could her risk be lowered?  You bet; yet under current Queensland law it is still illegal for two sex workers to work together to provide back up to each other and this immediately increases the risk of further abuses being perpetrated against us.  Who is more aware of our particular safety needs than another sex worker?  In my mind, current regulation is actually perpetrating gross negligence and causing undue harm which violates our basic human rights.

Queensland law does actually allow sex workers to hire a fully qualified bodyguard slash driver whenever we feel there is a need.  But lets face it, could Gemma have foreseen what was planned for her that night?  The answer is NO.  However, when isn’t there a potential risk for sex workers when we have a government that doesn’t support their basic human rights in general and a public who knows this and an element of depravity in some people who will continue to be violent by nature?  In Gemma’s case it is unrealistic to expect her to hire a bodyguard slash driver to serve as a chaperone on every single job, she accepts.  The cost alone puts this service way out of reach for most sex workers.  Where is this fictitious pool of bodyguard slash drivers on standby 24/7?

What about the Police? Gemma chose not to report this incident. That is her right.  When I asked her what made her think twice, she said she rang them anonymously and they couldn’t do anything unless she made a statement.  She didn’t want to make a statement.  She wanted the Police to go around and scare them to make them at least think twice about doing it again to another unsuspecting sex worker. This was not to be.  She could not see that making a statement to Police would enable them to visit the men and force them to at least tell their side of the story.  The only thing she could see, was that nothing would happen to them and she would become a known sex worker to Police.  This made her feel uncomfortable.  Sad isn’t it.

I referred Gemma to her local sex worker organisation for support immediately after the incident.  Respect Inc have drop in and outreach centres on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Townsville (Head Office) and Cairns.  She was able to debrief over the phone with a peer in Cairns, was given information about her rights and the opportunity to have the respect Peer Educator with her if she chose to make a statement with Police.  What an invaluable service! Severely under resourced and very lucky to have escaped the heinous community funding cuts that surged though Queensland last year like a fiscal enema.

What happened to Gemma could happen to any one of us at any time.  It has happened to a lot of us.  Is this a deterrent?  No it is not.  We cling to what little support we have within society and lean on each other and pick up the pieces and move on with our lives – and continue to sex work.  Men, women and transgender alike have been making the best of difficult situations for centuries.  Sex work is not a new phenomenon.  It is known as the oldest profession in the world for damn good reason!  Historically, it was not always an illegal or heavily regulated profession either.

Australia needs to make a National change uniting the States and follow in the huge footsteps of New South Wales and New Zealand who lead the way with complete Decriminalisation of the sex industry.  Draconian laws and heavy-handed, often purely misguided moralistic regulations do nothing but make the lives of sex workers fraught with danger, ripe for exploitation and reek of political potato chips.  How many more stories like Gemma’s do you have to hear before you realise that she is a person just like yourself, with a family and friends, neighbours, work colleagues and a guy that comes around to mow the lawn every 2nd Wednesday. A person who deserves to have laws in place to protect her human rights to live and work free from harrassment.

Why is Federal Australia still turning a blind eye to screeds of evidence-based research stating how decriminalising sex work removes so much unwanted paper work for bureaucrats, free’s up resources for Police to actually focus on real crimes, empowers people to make better choices, makes would be criminals think twice, and more importantly begins to improves negative stigma and discrimination which in turn raises self esteem and a feeling of belonging in society for a vulnerable minority group?  Perhaps we need to invest our hard earned tax payer dollars into buying a pair of thick lens glasses so that each and every Member of Parliament can begin to read the not so small print in front of them.

Finally, I have one last statement to make.  Sex workers are here to stay.  Sex workers are uniting and growing stronger every single day.  Sex workers will not tolerate abuse of any kind.  There should be ZERO TOLERANCE against violence full stop!  To those of you who are foolish enough to try to hurt or belittle us, remember we are watching you with eye’s in the back of our heads.  We are becoming organised and united.  These men were exposed to the hotel reception staff who also took great offence and I have no doubt they would have been uncomfortable attempting to explain it away.  Be prepared to be questioned, stood up to, refused, denied and exposed as the low-life scourge of society that you are.  We are the majority.  You are merely that 1% of the population that resembles a sharp prick we encounter occasionally when pulling out the weeds.

 

Jx

Published by the Aim Network

Published by Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)

 

Attorney-General Backs Hotel Sex Appeal

Offensive Media Articles

Yes folks!  We are witnessing first hand how discrimination is continuing to be perpetrated by political bullying agents at the highest level, as witnessed in Brisbane Times dated August 9th, 2012.  The Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has shown his true colours by publicly attempting to pervert the course  of justice by using his public powers to  “attempt to overturn” the appeal of the landmark Anti-discrimination case between the legal sex worker GK and the owners of the Drover’s Rest Motel in Moranbah.  Make no mistake about it.  We can begin to see the depth of corruption, personal bias and undue influence that is obviously still being exerted by Queensland’s politicians and power player’s.  It didn’t take long for those key players to rear their ugly head.

Sex workers have been dealing with this sort of extortion for years, especially in Queensland.  We only have to go back a couple of decades to see how far corruption can breed in politics with the likes of Sir Joe Bjielke-Petersen!  Here we go again.  Have you noticed the uncanny similarity between the last names of these two political figures?  Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Bleijie.  Perhaps they are related?  It would certainly explain why sex workers are continuing to fight an up-hill battle, just to have their basic human rights upheld.  This political tickling is spreading like a festering disease throughout politics in Queensland despite laws to the contrary to protect and serve.

How can a significant political figure like Mr Bleijie get away with flaunting his bias political power’s publicly like this.  Surely it is common sense not to interfere.  Our Attorney-General is meant to be a respected impartial public figure.  Similarly, so are the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) members.  Unfortunately a few bad apples have tainted this Anti-discrimination case.  Is it any wonder people are afraid to stand up for their rights when a system is is openly flawed like this?  What hope do we as citizens have?  I am embarrassed and ashamed.  How long will it be before Australians can feel truly proud that they have left their distasteful convict history behind?

There has to be a shift away from the pre-existing moralistic viewpoint, to one that supports a public health and human rights approach such as New Zealand’s.  It is apparent that there needs to be more constructive discussion and debate between sex workers, the government, lawmakers and public opinion in Australia.  This is not going to happen when we have sensationalised public Anti-discrimination cases and individual’s being put through the political ringer.  It just makes our justice system look like a Christmas dinner – full of turkey’s and really bad jokes.

The fact remains that the owners of the Drovers Rest Motel did discriminate by breaching the Anti-Discrimination Act by denying GK a room.  What right did they have to ask her to leave when she had been there 17 times during the past 2 years?  What rights do law abiding legal sex workers have, who pay their tax, keep a low profile and go about their daily business, earning a decent living.  We thought we had the Anti-discrimination law on our side that protected our right to practice ‘lawful sexual activity’.  Sex work is work after all.  I find I am holding my breath waiting for the next debacle.

Mr Bleijie says he stands on the side of business owners.  OK, so what about the rest of Australia who don’t happen to own a business?  Actually I have an ABN number and I pay tax, does this mean I am a respected business owner?  Or am I just a sex worker?  I do not think hotel and motel owners should be given more rights than they already have.  Mr Bleijie says he will change the laws to suit.  There are already adequate laws in place that protect against unruly, noisy or abusive guests.  Why didn’t the owners use this already existing defence? They couldn’t because no offence had been committed, and not in the entire 2 years that GK stayed at the motel.   It doesn’t take a genius to see that they want these additional law changes to give them more powers so they can discriminate!

Insinuating that hotel’s are at risk of becoming illegal brothel’s is ludicrous.  There are no similarities what-so-ever between the two.  The differences between a brothel manager and a motel manager are crystal clear.  Do motel owner/manager’s answer my phone, put my adds on, take care of the extra laundry without extra charge, provided security, negotiate bookings or provide my condoms?  They don’t because they are not brothel’s!

Consider that the former Attorney-General, Honourable Nicola Roxon, released a media statement on the 4th of January, 2012, reminding us that the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 is now in effect.  Human Rights will be “…bought into sharper focus in Parliament this year with all new laws to be checked to see if they stack up against human rights obligations”.  New laws must consider “… protection and promotion of human rights”.  The principles of freedom, respect, equality, dignity and a fair go, apply to everyone including sex workers.

In Queensland, it was found that sex workers who were working legally (i.e.  service providers in licensed brothels, legal sole traders) had better mental health than those in illegal settings (Seib et al 2009).  Harcourt et al (2005) suggested that decriminalization seemed to provide the best outcomes for sex workers health and welfare and that this is a desirable outcome that affects the community as a whole.  Where are human rights for sex worker’s here in this case?

I am concerned that in this day and age, Australians are being controlled by a very powerful elite who will stop at nothing short of murder, to keep their false sense of control from slipping away.  We need to stand up as a nation and right these wrongs  Nip them in the bud and say enough is enough.  The rest of the world is looking at us and I can feel their  contempt.  I want to feel proud to be an Australian.  I support human rights for all.

By Jodine
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To make a donation to go toward the legal bill for GK, please contact:

Crimson Coalition

St George Bank
BSB 114879
Account 483605476

All donations will be gratefully appreciated.   Jx