Queensland sex workers still experience “daily and systemic” discrimination and vilification, according to a new survey.
Queensland sex workers discrimination
Respect Inc and Decrim Queensland commissioned the survey of more than 200 workers – the biggest of its kind in the state.
The results form part of their submission to the Human Rights Commission’s review of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act.
The survey also found an “extremely high” rate of unreported discrimination.
91 percent of workers said they did not report their experiences because they feared facing further stigma.
Previously, a national survey of 650 sex workers found 96 percent reported experiencing discrimination and stigma related to their occupation.
91 percent specifically reported negative treatment by health workers.
Queensland sex worker Hope tells her story
Sex worker Hope* told ABC News about the discrimination she experienced at her local GP.
During a visit to get a refill for sleep medication, which the doctor usually provided “without batting an eyelid”, Hope requested another service:
“I said to him ‘I also need a sexual health check and a certificate of it to show my work. I’m a sex worker – I need it so I can work in a brothel'”.
Within a split second, Hope said the doctor’s attitude and mannerisms changed.
“He told me ‘you don’t seem like you’d do that’ or ‘you look too smart to be doing that’,” she said.
“Then he became immediately uninterested in having me as a patient. He just gave me a whole big lecture and wanted to harp on about safe sex and misusing drugs.”
The GP refused to refill the script, telling Hope he suddenly had concerns she might “misuse and abuse” the medication.
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said “lawful sexual activity” is prohibited in Queensland.
“It’s against the law to treat a person differently or unfairly, based on their activity as a sex worker – as long as that activity is legal” he said.
The problem in Queensland is that most sex workers work illegally as a result of complex laws tightly regulated by police.
The state only has 20 licenced brothels – leaving the remainder of the industry to work in unlicenced premises – or alone out of homes and hotels.
Furthermore, the legislation allows an accommodation provider to refuse or to evict a person who they believe is using the accommodation for sex work.
One worker told the survey:
“The manager of the body corporate threatened to tell the neighbours if I didn’t provide sex for free.”
Sex workers can also experience discrimination in roles that include working with children, which leaves those studying education locked out of employment.
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Call for change
Respect Inc is calling on the government to amend the term “lawful sexual behaviour” in the Anti-Discrimination Act to read “sex work” and “sex worker”.
It also wants the section of the legislation that allows lawful housing discrimination against sex workers repealed.
Last year, the Queensland government referred sex work laws to the Law Reform Commission for review.
The government wants a framework to decriminalise the sex work industry to bring the state into line with other states.
Mr Dryley-Collins also believes change is needed.
“The law should match legislation in other jurisdictions,” he said. “Sex workers, like all workers, deserve to be treated fairly and with respect.”
The review into Queensland’s sex work legislation will be finalised by November, while reforms to anti-discrimination laws will be finalised by June.
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