South Australian Sex Party candidate, Ari Reid recently gave a speech on Human Trafficking, at the United Nations Youth Association Policy Dinner. Read her speech below.
29th November 2010.
Thanks so much for inviting me to talk tonight about the important and topical issue of human trafficking. As mentioned I am the manager of the South Australian Sex Industry Network (SIN) which is a health funded sex workers project aimed at promoting the health rights and wellbeing of sex workers in South Australia and I am actively involved with Scarlet Alliance, which is the Australian Sex Workers Association. Scarlet Alliance is a member of the Asia Pacific network of sex work projects and other regional and international networks of sex workers. The president of Scarlet alliance, Elena Jeffreys, sits on the Commonwealth Attorney Generals round table for human trafficking and Scarlet Alliance provides information and advice on policy directions through various submissions and representation roles. The Australian Sex Party congratulate the recent announcement from the Attorney Generals department, to continue funding the important partnership approach between community based organizations and the government. This funding will allow community based organizations working in this area, such as Scarlet Alliance, to continue their capacity building work with both migrant sex workers here in Australia and overseas sex worker organisations such as Zi Teng in China and Empower in Thialand.
In my own project, SIN, we have a highly successful multicultural project, which is both engaged meaningfully within the Asian sex work community in SA and is also involved in regional partnership projects and research addressing the issues of migrant sex workers and trafficking. SIN and our outreach workers are in the unique position of witnessing the effects of the anti trafficking rhetoric on the very people it claims to want to help. SIN and our partner organizations have done much work and have begun to conduct research into this area.
I have been involved in lobbying for sex worker rights for 7 years and recently joined the Australian Sex Party. I ran as a Sex Party candidate in the last federal election. The Australian Sex Party is only about a year old but has already gained a committed, intelligent and diverse range of voters, supporters, candidates and volunteers. We received 17000 primary votes in South Australia alone and overall came 4th around the nation. Personally I was drawn to the ASP because of its many diverse policies based on evidence, human rights, civil liberties, equality and a distinct lack of moral hysteria or religion. They promise to tackle the issues that all the other parties are too scared to address such as sex education in schools, GLBTIQ equality, Sensible drug reform, a women’s right to choose, anti censorship and sex worker rights.
So with those values in mind I am very proud to be able to present the Australian Sex Parties range of policies to address human trafficking. A range of policies that have been worked on in partnership with the community and drawn from evidence based research with a focus on human rights and anti discrimination. They are policies that recognize that anti trafficking debates typically are conflated with anti sex work approaches. They are policies that come from a rights based approach rather than a victim mentality. They are policies that acknowledge the reality of human trafficking in Australia. The reality is that the trafficking cases we have prosecuted in Australia are akin to exploitation of migrant workers who are further victimized due to their limited rights as illegal workers in sometimes criminalized workplaces. Not the sensationlised media portrayals of women and girls tricked into leaving their homes and then being tied to beds in brothels with bars on the windows. The research shows the reality; migrant workers desperate to travel and cross borders in search of a better life, as workers have done for centuries. These workers often find it difficult to navigate their way through complex and sometimes racist or sexist immigration laws. Often the only information available is in English. Their work - sex work, not recognized as skilled labour, or is highly criminalized in their home country so they must hide it, certainly not name it as their occupation. Often these workers are unaware of the legal status of sex work in Australia. Therefore as a last resort people may choose to enter into often unfair or expensive contracts with third parties or traffickers to aid their travel. Once in Australia, these contracts are illegal, and some workers find themselves in exploitative conditions with little or no recourse - language, criminalization, illegal migrant status and their highly stigmatized occupation all creating barriers to seeking rights and protections.
The Australian Sex Party aims to abolish sex slavery and sexual servitude and human trafficking by introducing non morality-based immigration policies that allow migrant sex workers to work legally in Australia. We want to ensure that trafficking remains a crime in Australia; but that sex work is not.
It is legal for sex workers from other countries to travel to most states in Australia for work. Sex work is legal or decriminalized in most states of Australia, with South Australia the only state that continues to completely criminalize all activities surrounding sex work, although many migrant sex workers are unaware of the legal status of sex work before arriving here. In order to protect their rights sex workers must be made aware of their rights.
Generally migrant sex workers experience good work conditions in Australia and most of the difficulties they face will be perpetrated by over-zealous immigration officials and/or police who are seeking to prosecute trafficking. In South Australia it is the asian workplaces that are heavily targeted by Christian rescue and rehab groups or harassed by police who’s job it is to arrest them.
The Australian Sex Party demands an end to all criminal targeting of migrant sex workers and a shift away from a single focus surveillance, detection and policing approach.
We advocate for policies that focus on prevention measures such as increased access to information on legal work migration and visa options, equitable access to visas, and a human rights approach to prevention.
Australian authorities are already prosecuting trafficking crimes; however effective evidence based prevention needs more attention.
The Australian sex party advocates for Visa simplification.
Currently it is more difficult for a migrant sex worker from a developing country (for example Thailand) to travel independently to do sex work in Australia than it is for them to find a trafficker willing to bring them here. Third party agents (ie traffickers) profit from sex workers difficulty with immigration; a more fair and equitable visa system for sex workers would make a valuable contribution to reducing trafficking and improving human rights.
We demand that the Australian government make it easier for sex workers to know what their rights are, by translating immigration resources.
Visa sub-class information, eligibility, forms and visa stamps should be available in a persons local language so that they know the correct visa to apply for and what that visa will mean to them when they are in Australia (ie their work rights). This is a responsibility of the Department of Immigration. Sex workers from other countries would benefit from knowing that sex work is decriminalised, legalised and tolerated in Australia. The Australian Sex Party supports the translation of immigration information to reduce barriers to information for those wanting to navigate their legal passage to Australia.
We support further funding of programmes that build capacity in countries of origin
To support the capacity building of community based peer run sex work projects in countries of origin to educate and advocate for the rights of sex workers both in their own regions and within the immigration systems.
The Australian Sex Party are against extra criminalisation of the sex industry as criminalisation only harms those we want to assist.
Migrant sex workers should have access to occupational health and safety provisions, human rights and industrial law in Australia – extra criminalization of this industry only harms sex workers. Clients of those sex workers who are in exploitative situations are an important tool for getting assistance to those sex workers, criminalizing those clients is detrimental to what we are trying to achieve.
Sex workers who came here via a third party and who are in situations of exploitation are eligible to participate in prosecution of criminal charges against their employers and/or migration agents and will receive welfare and visa support if they give evidence against them. In highly criminalized and underground industries it becomes difficult to distribute this information to those who may need it.
In South Australia, a criminalized sex industry that is heavily policed means we see the rights of sex workers eroded daily, and migrant sex workers are especially vulnerable. We know that sex industry businesses that employ Asian sex workers are targeted by police and sex workers in those businesses are harassed and intimidated. Often local police are not even aware of the rules surrounding the different types of Visa’s and the harassment is completely unwarranted. This leaves sex workers in a position where they cannot trust police and current policing practices do little to combat this issue. Police are historically the prosecutors and abusers of sex workers, not the protectors.
Decriminalise sex work to prevent trafficking.
Expanding sex workers human rights and access to occupational health and safety, information, referral, and advocacy services will help to prevent trafficking. We must empower all people connected to the sex industry to report any criminal behavior or suspicions of actual crimes including sexual servitude, trafficking, underage sex and workplace exploitation. I note and congratulate the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon who recently urged the world to remove punitive laws, policies, practices, stigma and discrimination that block effective responses to AIDS and exploitation. Mr Ban named decriminalisation of sex work as the best approach to support both the human rights and health of sex workers.
Only rights can stop the wrongs.
To free the ‘slaves’ you must give them rights!