This is the text of a speech made by a People For Sex Worker Rights member at the Slutwalk Perth event in November 2013.
Firstly, I’d like to thank Slutwalk for having us here today. It’s not very often that we get the chance to have not, but two sex workers speaking at an event, and it is really kind of the Slutwalk organisers to give us this opportunity. I’d also appreciate if you could bear with me, because I’ve never spoken in public about being a sex worker before I’m nervous as hell.
I could stand here today to talk about how victim-blaming and slut-shaming affect us as sex workers, and trust me, I could go on for a long time. But, with two of us here, I’d like to take the chance today to talk about you can actually help us make our work as sex workers in Western Australia safer. Today, we as People For Sex Worker Rights in WA are launching our petition to bring in decriminalisation of sex work in this state, and we can certainly use your help.
So what is decriminalisation? Decriminalisation, as defined by Scarlet Alliance, refers to the removal of all criminals laws relating to sex work and the operation of the sex industry, and allowing occupational health and safety and other workplace issues to be addressed through existing industrial laws and regulations that apply to any legal workforce.
This would remove the joint and incompatible role of the police as both the regulators of our industry and the people we’re supposed to have recourse to if violence occurs against us – something which, it shouldn’t be too surprising to say, makes many of us considerably warier towards the police than we might be otherwise. Decriminalisation would allow us to work on our own terms in the conditions we feel safest in, without having to worry about falling foul of laws or regulations which make us less safe in our workplaces.
In campaigning for decriminalisation, we’re also signalling that we’re tired of having to be on the back foot against attempts to make our work even more dangerous. We successfully fought off an attempt at changing sex work laws in 2011 that would have made WA arguably the most dangerous state in Australia to be a sex worker. We know there are numerous MPs in state parliament who want to introduce the so-called “Swedish model”, a model which would criminalise our clients. The Swedish model would force us to take greater risks to protect our clients from arrest, and it openly attempts to decrease the number of sex industry clients – which would force us to be less selective about our clients and put us all at greater risk. This is why we will stand and fight any attempt at regulating our industry that puts us in greater danger, and why will not accept anything short of full decriminalisation of the industry.
Which brings us to what you can do to help us. We’re only just getting started, and we have a long campaign ahead that we can’t do on our own. We’ve got our brand new petition going around today, which we’d love you to sign. We’ve got our Facebook page, which you can like and keep up to date with news on our campaign. Down the line, we’ll be holding rallies and letter righting pushes to MPs, and we’d love it if you could support us.
It’s one thing to talk about victim-blaming and slut-shaming in the context of the sex industry, but when we still have laws on the books that place workers in greater danger, and members of our current parliament pushing for laws that would make things so much worse, we need to be confronting our government on the institutional issues. We will not stop fighting until we win decriminalisation in this state, and with your support we will get there.