Queensland sex workers will today hold a rally to call for the industry to be decriminalised in the state, which they say will make working much safer.
The rally, which will be held in King George Square in Brisbane’s CBD from 1pm, will highlight the dangers faced by sex workers under current laws which force them to work alone.
In Queensland, sex workers are permitted to work in a licensed brothel, or privately, but it is against the law to work in pairs or with the support of another person.
Sex worker Ruby, who lives in Sydney but travels to Queensland for work, told The Courier-Mail that she felt more unsafe when she came north.
“Working in Queensland seems quite oppressive. Somehow the laws make it inherently risky whereas in New South Wales, there’s just not that level of fear,” she said.
“They have really strict laws about, if you’re a sex worker, you have to work alone.
“People work in different ways, but being able to work on a premises with a friend, it does give you an extra person there. But you can’t do that in Queensland and that’s quite frustrating.”
Ruby has worked in many different states in different parts of the industry, but now works privately – her specialty is bondage and domination.
“The laws are different in each state and territory, so we have everything from total criminalisation to mostly total decriminalisation, but Queensland’s a weird case because it’s actively policed, so the constant fear of entrapment is very real, and it definitely has an impact on the way you feel about your work and how you go about your work as well,” she told The Courier Mail.
“The laws in Queensland I think are definitely designed to make it difficult to do sex work, but I think that just adds to the stigma and discrimination that sex workers face on a daily basis, living in that environment where you’ve got that fear or that worry in the back of your head all the time. That really takes a toll.”
Strict advertising rules in place
Ruby said there are strict advertising laws in place for sex workers in Queensland – current laws mean they can be fined if they use certain words.
“There are just so many little things that could catch you out at any moment. Sometimes it just feels like even just existing as a sex worker is illegal in Queensland,” she said.
Ruby believes there is still a long way to go to destigmatise sex work, but decriminalisation would help.
“I pay my taxes, I pay my mortgage and my vet bills. Sex workers have children. We’re contributing to local economies and to society in lots of different ways,” Ruby said.
Isolation a big problem
Another sex worker, Neroli, told The Courier-Mail that isolation is big a problem with current laws in Queensland.
“Workers can’t be together. Letting another person know that I have a job on the way and I’m not so sure about this person, I can’t do that,” she said.
“If something does go wrong, how are the police going to help us when they’re the ones targeting us anyway? I don’t think workers do feel safe going to the police. I would like to see full decriminalisation.”
Lawful sexual activity discrimination
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims, said it is unlawful to discriminate against someone in Queensland for lawful sexual activity.
“Unfortunately, too many sex workers experience discrimination in the community, whether it’s at their day job, or when they are applying for a rental property – and sometimes even when they are applying for a loan or a credit card at a bank,” he said.
“In Queensland, it is unlawful to treat a sex worker unfairly, just because they are a sex worker.
“Life can be hard enough for some people, including sex workers, and the last thing they need is to subjected to discrimination simply for the job that they do.”
If you have experienced discrimination based on your sex, gender or sexual orientation, you may be entitled to compensation.
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