Queensland sex workers demand decriminalisation

Sex workers and supporters took to the streets last week on International Sex Worker Rights Day, campaigning to remove police from their workplaces and homes. 

The demonstrators rallied in Southport to call attention to problems under the current criminal framework, which include police victimisation of minorities, raids on workplaces, and laws that prevent safe practices such as communication between workers.

“It’s appalling that sex workers are not afforded safety rights at work,” said one community member at the rally. 

“I thought this was sorted out years ago.”

Sex work peer organisation Respect Inc is calling for decriminalisation of the industry.

State Coordinator Elena Jeffreys said that police resources are being wasted.

“Police posing as clients, even gaining sexual services from sex workers, in order to arrest us in what is a victimless crime is out of step with global standards of human rights, and flies in the face of the recommendations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry Report more than three decades ago,” she said.

“Sex work should no longer be a crime in Queensland, and we are tired of waiting for government action.”

Jeffreys said the general community was very receptive to decriminalisation.

“In the past year, thousands of Queenslanders have written to politicians supporting the change,” she said.

“Recent parliamentary debate on police powers demonstrates multi-party support for reform.”

The #DecrimQLD committee is leading the push for reform in the state, and used the rally as an opportunity to gather signatures calling on the Attorney-General to take action.

“Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath has committed to referring sex work decriminalisation to the Queensland Law Reform Commission, but sex workers are still waiting, and in the meantime the raids continue,” said committee member Lulu Holiday.

Campaign leader Janelle Fawkes said that police raids on the Gold Coast in the last six months have resulted in arrests allegedly related to an escort agency and massage parlours.

“Of the dozens of people questioned and arrested, most were sex workers,” said Fawkes.

“The burden of criminalisation of sex work falls on sex workers’ shoulders.”

Speaking at the rally, advocate Vickki Boon asked why sex workers should not have friends or colleagues to support them.

“Why can’t our friends or work colleagues help us get our advertising right?” she asked.

“Why can’t we work in the same space?

“Entrapment of sex workers in massage parlours makes us feel like criminals and scared of the police.” 

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