Australian sex workers call for change to the law to improve their safety

Sex workers in Victoria, Australia are protesting a law which says they cannot work from home. An escort, who works from her own home, could be charged with running a brothel.

Any person, who needs the services of an escort, would have to invite the sex worker to his own space.

"When you go to a job there's a feeling like you don't know what to expect," sex worker Mary told ABC.

No other state in Australia has this law, except South Australia where sex work is criminalized.

It is common for one to feel more comfortable when they are in familiar territory, and sex workers are not any different.

"A big problem for us is [that] this law gives men the chance to set up hidden cameras," Mary said.

"It's more than just practical though — it's psychological too.

"It's saying, 'This is the man's space and he's in control' — it's another way to remove any power women have over their own bodies."

Mary alleged that the authorities set up these laws as if society needs to be protected from sex workers and not vice versa.

"The laws are not there to protect sex workers," she said.

Another sex worker, Coco who comes from China but works in Australia says there is a lot of stigma attached to being a sex worker in the country and wishes this would change.

"I don't feel respect and sometimes in a town, I just stay in my hotel room and don't come out because I feel shame.

"I'm just another person with a big heart — it's just a job."

'Sex is a part of life and we should feel safe'

A third sex worker Linda, complained to ABC News, that due to this law, sex workers would often get fake calls from time-wasters who call them to a wrong address for a joke. She says this makes her feel disrespected.

"Sex's a part of life and sometimes men with disabilities book me, or sometimes it's a man whose wife has died." She said

She says she prefers working outside Victoria because there she gets a chance to assess potential clients before she gets to meet with them.

"I can watch who's coming from my hotel and I don't give out room numbers until I see them," she said.

However, a spokesman for the Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs, Marlene Kairouz, quoted on ABC News, said the strict licensing scheme was in place to protect the health and safety of sex workers.

"If a premise is made available for sex work by a business or person providing sex work services, the premise meets the legal definition of a brothel and therefore requires a brothel planning permit in order for the business or person to operate lawfully," the spokesman said.

The sex workers all agree that when they get in trouble, going to police not an option

"One thing you know as a sex worker is you can't go to the police," Mary said.

"You would only ever go as a very last resort.

"They see us as a problem that needs to be managed, not as workers with rights."

Senior Sergeant Sam Ryan from Victoria Police's Sexual Offences Team, however, insisted that the police was there to help sex workers.

"Victoria Police are aware people who work in the sex industry sometimes face poor community attitudes around their profession," he said.

"This may cause them to feel disbelieved or that they are not being taken seriously."


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