This is the text of a speech made by a People For Sex Worker Rights member at the Perth section of the snap International Day of Protest Against Violence Against Sex Workers, the local event of which we also organised, in July 2013.
Sex workers and allies in Australia to stand together and protest the recent murders of Jasmine and Dora and the violent attack against Ela and against all sex workers worldwide.
We are here to demand an end to violence against sex workers!
I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a sex worker. I’ve been touched by what has happened to Jasmine. It is one of my worst fears.
Jasmine was a mother of three. The Swedish model took away Jasmine’s children because she was a sex worker and gave custody of her children to her violent ex-husband who finally murdered her. Social workers and the Swedish state refused to listen to Jasmine. The Swedish model says that sex work is self-harm. The Swedish model is criminalization. Laws like these do not “help” sex workers, they are detrimental to our health safety and wellbeing. Laws that criminalise our clients and almost anyone associated with us and treat us like we need to be rescued. These are the kinds of laws that Liberal MP Nick Goiran wants to bring to WA – and we say NO! We know about Jasmine’s case because she was a fierce sex workers rights activist. Yet in WA we have parents having children removed because of sex work, violent attacks on street based sex workers because of stigma and criminalization and it must end!
It must end, but how? It ends by recognizing sex work as work, by seeing us as the diverse people that we are – we are human beings doing a job. It ends with the notion that if you choose to sell sex you’re less than human. It ends by police taking crimes against sex workers seriously. It ends by recognizing our human rights by decriminalizing our industry and giving us the same access to healthcare, social wellbeing and justice that every other person has access to.
We have recently had sex workers lack of access to justice highlighted in the Australian media with the case of Jill Meagher. Her rapist and murderer, Adrian Bayley had previously raped 5 sex workers. As Jill Meagher’s husband put it “I’m aware that his previous victims in the previous case before Jill were sex workers and I’ll never be convinced that that had nothing to do with the leniency of his sentence, which as I said, send as very disturbing message. ‘Cause if we say – what it says to women is, you know, “Be careful what you do, ’cause if we don’t like what you do, you won’t get justice.” And then what it says to people like Bayley is not, “Don’t rape”, but, “Be careful who you rape.”” And sadly he is right. The message sent out by all of these cases is that sex workers are in some way less than other people and we must stand up and tell the world that this is not acceptable. Sex workers are human beings just like everyone else and therefore deserve justice, human rights and respect.
The irony of being a sex worker for me is that you get treated like a victim a lot – unless you actually are a victim of violent crime, then the criminal justice system and child protection treat you like a criminal.