LGBTIQ organisations worldwide call for decriminalisation of sex work


Respect Inc decriminalisation rally
Photo: Respect Inc

A global network of LGBTIQ organisations from around the world have called for global decriminalisation of sex work to address discrimination and stigma against sex workers, including those who identify as LGBTIQ.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) is a global network representing more than 1,500 LGBTIQ organisations from around the world, and this month held its 30th ILGA World Conference in New Zealand.

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In a landmark resolution, passed during the conference’s closing session, ILGA opposed all forms of criminalisation and legal oppression of sex workers and recognised many LGBTIQ individuals enter the industry due to transphobia, biphobia and homophobia limiting their access to education and other forms of employment.

“By approving this resolution, our global LGBTI family is saying loud and clear that addressing violence, criminalisation and human rights violations against LGBTI and all sex workers must be a priority for our movement,” outgoing ILGA co-Secretaries General Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy said.

“LGBTI sex workers are an integral part of our communities and movements, and have shaped key moments in queer history.

“We must listen to their voices, stand by their side and continue our fight towards social justice for all.”

ILGA Oceania said in in a statement it is concerned by levels of violence, discrimination and exclusion faced by sex workers, and an increasing number of human rights, health and anti-trafficking organisations are demanding governments recognise sex work as work, and protect sex workers’ labour and human rights.

Of the 2,982 transgender people murdered between 2008 and 2018, 62% whose profession was known were sex workers, according to research cited by the group.

In 2003, New Zealand changed its laws to allow sex workers to choose their place, type, and method of work, including the right to refuse clients, ILGA Oceania said.

Allan Heta Cleaver, a Board member of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC), said those changes in her country’s laws had benefited her.

“Doing street-based sex work, my health and safety was often at risk and I was unable to call upon the police for help,” she said.

“Having returned to sex work after a long break and after decriminalisation, I am now able to work indoors and not be so at risk.

“I know the police will come to my aid, if I need them. Moreover, I can access healthcare and information on my rights through peer-led organisations like NZPC.”

Earlier this month, Queensland sex workers and allies rallied in the Brisbane CBD to call on the state government to scrap laws they say are putting those in their industry at risk.

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Sex workers are permitted to work in a licensed brothel in Queensland, or privately, but it is an offence to work in pairs or with the support of another person. There are also strict advertising guidelines for sex workers in Queensland.

A symposium into sex work laws and workplace health and safety held at Parliament House in November heard that the Queensland laws “make essential safe working practices illegal (working in pairs, texting each other when clients leave, hiring a receptionist, helping each other with advertisements etc., using a driver another sex worker uses). Police statistics show charges against sex workers are increasing.”

“At a time when the LGBTIQ community is finding its place within broader community, the sex work laws in Queensland are unraveling the ways we have protected and supported each other for decades,” trans sex worker and activist Elle told QN Magazine at the time.

“They get in the way of our most trusted adopted families being are able to support us when we need it most.

“While laws criminalise sex worker safety in Queensland we are unable to report crimes or harassment to police. Once we are known to police as sex workers we risk being charged.”
 

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