Share via Email In New South Wales became one of the first places in the world to decriminalise sex work. The NSW model is often cited as an example of best-practice, evidence-based regulation. The state has an estimated 10, sex workers and many of them are active globally in law reform, human rights and HIV prevention campaigns.
Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning But 23 years since decriminalisation, how much has changed for sex workers and what does the future hold? The Guardian spoke to six sex workers about their personal experiences and the diverse nature of the work they do. Jules Kim Chief executive of the Scarlet Alliance — the leading sex worker-run advocacy group There is still a lot of confusion about the difference between legalisation and decriminalisation.
Obviously, we are subject to criminal laws just like everybody else. Essentially, the many things around sex work — brothels, clients, etc — are made illegal to obstruct the work. It becomes subject to occupational healthy and safety laws, industrial rights legislation, council regulation and so on.
Many international agencies such as Amnesty International and the United Nations have joined us in recent years to call for the full decriminalisation of our work, our workplaces and our clients. Many conflate human trafficking with sex work. It comes from the preconception people have that sex work is inherently exploitative.
Unfortunately, anti-trafficking policies have been used to persecute and criminalise migrant sex workers nationally and globally. Over more than 20 years, I have developed many methods and techniques to allow me to work within their physical capacity. The only expectation is that the client needs to treat me with dignity and respect. I adapt my services to the needs of each individual. For instance, if a client had a stroke and the left side of their body is affected then I need to know that.
I can then sit on the other side and they can touch me with their right arm. Certain clients come to lose their virginity. Others want to learn about sexual positions and activities. I co-founded the charitable organisation Touching Base to build training programs for other sex workers and to connect them to people with disabilities.
We focus on the barriers these two marginalised communities experience, as well as their concerns such as access, discrimination and legal issues. The biggest challenge is often organising the appointment, especially if they rely on assistance from family, friends or support staff.
Imagine asking your mum to arrange a visit to a sex worker. They trust that we can provide a safe space. I work — mainly — with a community of women and I love the support that comes from that. I find it life-affirming. I define myself as a feminist.
But I have a fraught relationship with mainstream feminism. They silence sex workers by refusing to recognise our work and autonomy. And, in doing so, have committed a great act of violence against us. When we talk about violence against women, we need to talk about violence against sex workers. Instead of having to constantly prove our humanity or justify our profession we should be consulted and included in wider discussions about our work, sexual harassment and feminism.
I felt my life slipping away working 14 hours day for a company to pocket the profits. I was looking for a change so I quit. I was doing a bit of personal training and started doing sex work on the side, and then porn. And after a year I started escorting full time.
The negatives I experienced in sex work were directly comparable to negatives I experienced in other jobs. When I was in the finance industry I worked long hours for little reward. But sex work allows me to decide my work hours, travel frequently and be my own boss.
She decided the safest way to do that was with an escort. She knew it would be a safe space and she could be in control; stopping at any time with no issues. For someone to come and see me and place that trust in me, I found it very moving.
It was alive and exciting, full of all things good and full of things bad. I began doing sex work in This made it very difficult for us to get work in our chosen profession. It was a very different world then. Clients would take advantage of us, coercing us into doing things with them sexually and not paying us, knowing full well that we could not seek recompense or justice from the law. The police would strip us of all our money, drive us way out of town and tell us to find our own way home.
The crimes committed against all street-based sex workers were horrific and the biggest perpetrators were the police.