There is a new bill before parliament which seeks to decriminalise sex work in South Australia. The ‘Statutes Ammendment (Decriminlisation of Sex Work) Bill 2013’ was introduced to the House of Representaives by Steph Key on the 16th of May 2013 and unlike the previous bill, I am thrilled with this one.
This bill is pure decriminalisation with the exception of the clause that states sex workers and clients must be over 18 and the addition of ammendments to the anti discrimination act and spent conviction act which will make it illegal to discriminate against a sex worker and mean existing sex work convictions would be wiped from our records.
Decriminalisation basically it means that all the offences related to sex work will be deleted and no new special laws will be added, allowing sex workers, sex work businesses and the industry to be governed by all the laws and regulations that govern every other citizen, worker, business and industry. Under a decriminalised model police would be there to protect us, not bust us and we would be able to access all the protections that other workers can access. Creating special laws just for sex workers means we are often discriminated against, treated differently, still have the police trying to catch us out doing something illegal, have OH&S and industrial regulations contained in criminal codes with criminal punishments as opposed to being dealt with industrially like other workers and industries. Decriminaisation ensures that sex workers are not subject to special laws that were often made for political not pragmatic reasons and then shelved for another hundred years, rather decrimnalisation means sex workers are covered by the same sophisticated protections and reguations as other workers which are reviewed and updated regularly (such as industrial relations and OH&S regulations).
This bill will mean that no sex worker is a criminal. It means that all sex workers should be able to call police without fear. It means that potential offenders think twice before committing crimes against sex workers. It means sex workers have access to oh&S standards. It means sex workers are less isolated and have less barriers to accessig assistance when they need it. It means sex workers can put safe work practices before police evasion tactics. It means sex industry business can be more open about their business activities and provide more specific tools and resources to assist sex workers and clients stay safe. It means sex workers can be clearer with potential clients and employers about their boundaries. It means sex workers who have criminal records will no longer need to worry that this will effect them in finding work outside the industry. It means sex workers do not have to worry about getting a criminal record or having negative contact with police. It means that instead of sex workers breaking the law, it will be the people who discriminate against us who are breaking the law which is a massive shift and i can only imagine the long term impacts of this on the self esteem of sex workers.
Decriminalisation is best for everyone. There are some brothel owners and employers who would have preffered there to be tighter controls on sex workers and businesses so as to limit competition and to maximise the power they can have over workers, but ultimately the day to day work lives will not change for people in the sex industry (or outside it) except where we need assistance we will have places to get it. Decriminalisation is not a magic wand and will not solve all our problems, but it levels the playing feild. It gives us somewhere to start. It gives us the right to fight for our rights. Decriminalisation is what sex workers around the world have been demanding for decades.
New South Wales and New Zealand have already decriminalised sex work and have reported successes for sex workers health and safety, and maybe South Australia will be the third place in the world to give sex workers equal rights. The current bill will be voted on following its second reading on the 20th of June. If the vote is successful the bill will go to committee stage, where ammendments can be put forward before it gets voted on a second time. If passed by the lower house, the bill then needs to be passed (by a similar process) in the upper house.
This is a really big deal. Maybe sex workers in South Australia will finally be able to work with dignity choice and legal protection, maybe our laws will be featured in power point presentations in conferences everywhere, maybe all the work of South Australian sex worker activists past and present will have positive outcomes for sex workers here and internationally.
But now we need your help. South Australia was once considered a world leader in progressive law reform, but this is no longer the case. Our leaders are scared of controversy, they are scared that you wont vote for them if they support these laws. If we are going to get this bill past, we need you to tell your local MP that you support us, and you support decriminalisation and you want them to support this bill.
Please consider supporting us by:
Signing the petition
Meeting with your local MP
Attending the rallys
Writing letters to the editor and commenting on onine media
Getting in touch with SIN or SWAGGERR to find out how you can help
Liking the facebook pages to keep informed, including the new one ‘decriminalise sex work in south australia’
This is not just an issue for sex workers past and present and in the future and our friends and family, it is an issue for all South Australians who care about equity and social justice. Please get behind us, We cant do this alone!