Draped in fluorescent red wigs and red outfits, around 100 sex workers carrying red umbrellas marched from the Sydney Opera House to the front of the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Chanting “Sex workers rights are human rights” and “Grab your hair, fix your hair, sex workers are everywhere”, the colourful crew held their march at the end of the three-day Scarlet Alliance National Forum, a national conference where a raft of issues were discussed, ranging from social media to alleged cases of QLD police entrapping sex workers.
Janelle Fawkes, CEO of the Scarlet Alliance, says despite the World Health Organisation endorsing the decriminalisation of sex work, Australian law reform in recent years had gone “a step backwards”, highlighted by the NSW Coalition governments plans to introduce new licensing regulations, which would be a move away from a decriminalisation model that has operated in the state since 1995.
“NSW has the healthiest sex industry [in terms of low rates of STIs and HIV] yet against all the evidence and from the experience of sex workers, there is still a call to introduce a model that we know that in other states and territories do not work,” she says.
In a statement to SBS, the office of the Special Minister for State, Chris Hartcher, said “options are currently being finalised” after a working party produced an issues paper.
Protestors discussed the inconsistent licensing restrictions across different states. In Queensland, sex workers must provide a reference from a sibling which says they are suited to the job.
Meanwhile, in the Northern Territory, sex workers must register with the police and have their names placed on a list for life, which can be subpoenaed.
Crystal, 24, says she has opted to work as a solo operator because she knows of sex workers whose lives have been severely impacted by having their name on the list. “It’s archaic,” she said.