Stark choice for Qld sex workers – work safely or obey law?

sex work decrimqld respect inc

We accept best practice in workplace health and safety as a given these days. Government regulation and workplace policies cover just about every eventuality that could bring harm to a worker. Unless the worker is a sex worker!

In that case, Queensland law actually endangers the health and safety of the worker.

No bad whores – just bad laws

Currently, independent sex workers in Queensland may not work together from the same premises.

Nor can they share their whereabouts with another sex worker for safety reasons.

Queensland law also prescribes sex workers describing their services in advertising.

The DecrimQLD campaign aims to provide basic workplace health and safety for Queensland sex workers via decriminalisation.

Sex worker organisation Respect Inc leads the campaign.

DecrimQLD says the current laws undermine sensible safety precautions.

“Police now actively prosecute sex workers for implementing safety strategies, with charges up by 126%, and for incorrect wording in sex work advertising, with charges up 450%.

“The ‘criminals’ are predominantly women over 30; they are fined up to $6,000.”

Unfortunately, laws designed to stop exploitation of sex workers instead result in sex workers arrested for advertising, communicating or working safely.

The Queensland government introduced 1999’s Prostitution Act as a response to the Fitzgerald Inquiry exposure of police corruption but left the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) intact.

This means basic safety strategies remain illegal.

Every day, in towns and cities across Queensland, sex workers must choose whether to work safely or legally.

According to DecrimQLD repealing outdated laws would finish the work of Fitzgerald and provide safer working conditions.

Thirty years after Fitzgerald: The unfinished business of Queensland’s sex work policy

Additionally, fifteen Queensland organisations recently signed a joint letter calling for action by the Attorney General on a government commitment to decriminalise sex work.

Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Reynolds signed on behalf of the Queensland AIDS Council.

“Strong workplace laws that protect workers are essential and need to be equally applied,” said Rebecca.

“As members of LGBTI Communities and populations, we actively work to create safety for us to be our true and authentic selves in our workplaces, and in our lives.

“The same needs to apply for sex workers in Queensland.”

sex workers
Thirty Years after Fitzgerald

“Evidence tells us strongly that decriminalisation is the best way to keep people safe.

“Moreover, it lets sex workers know that they will stay safe when they are going to work.

“Let’s all help stop the choice that folk are being forced to make between safety or legality.”

Judith Dean, President of the Sexual Health Society of Queensland also signed on behalf of that organisation.

“It is our position that the decriminalisation of sex work in Queensland is an important component of removing structural barriers to sex workers accessing health promotion programs, sexual health testing and support.” 

Respect Inc: ‘Take police out of the equation’

1300 letters from Queenslanders requesting decriminalisation

Elena Jeffreys from Respect Inc said sex workers simply want the same basic rights and protections as other Queenslanders.

“There are already robust civil regulations for businesses, home occupation, anti-discrimination, amenity impact, occupational safety and health, and industrial rights in Queensland. Sex workers want to be included in these – and take police out of the equation.”

Also, in the past month, DecrimQLD forwarded letters from 1300 Queenslanders to the Attorney General, Minister for Police and Minister for Health calling for the repeal of laws that criminalise large sections of the sex industry.

To learn more about the campaign and also add your voice check out Respect Inc’s website.

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