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Sex Workers And Gender Diverse Face Working With Children Discrimination

Sex workers and gender diverse face working with children discrimination

Sex workers and gender diverse people face discrimination when working with children under current exemptions in Queensland laws.

The exemptions allow Queensland employers to discriminate against gender diverse people and sex workers.

Advocacy groups are calling for them to be removed.

Sex workers and gender diverse face discrimination

Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of lawful sexual activity (sex work) or gender identity.

However, the law does allow for discrimination if it is “reasonably necessary to protect the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of minors” in the workplace.

Lawyer Matilda Alexander from Rainbow Families Queensland said the law perpetuates harmful myths about LGBTIQ people posing a risk to children.

“I’ve spoken to individuals who are concerned … and have felt that their jobs are maybe at risk because of this,” Alexander told Guardian Australia.

“This kind of law contributes to stigma and it also makes people feel like they are less valued members of society.”

Female netball coach with four young players Sex workers and gender diverse face working with children discrimination

Currently, Queensland law allows for discrimination if it is “reasonably necessary to protect the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of minors” in the workplace.

Government reviewing law

The Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) is currently conducting a review of the Anti-Discrimination Act – the first since it came into effect in 1991.

In its submission, Rainbow Families said the legislation can make gender diverse teachers feel unable to affirm their gender identity.

The organisation also argues it pressures lesbian, gay and bisexual teachers to “remain in the closet” at school.

“Such a facade can be extremely challenging to maintain when a teacher or their partner becomes pregnant,” Rainbow Families said.

“At this point, it can become impossible to continue to hide one’s gender identity or sexuality and who their family is.”

Alexander said abolishing the exemptions would be “a great step forward” towards equality for Queensland’s LGBTIQ community.

“[The working with children] section has no place in contemporary society, and we’re expecting it to be repealed,” she said.

Male teacher holding rainbow flag Sex workers and gender diverse face working with children discrimination

Rainbow Families says the current legislation encourages lesbian and gay teachers to stay in the closet.

Sex workers

Previously, Janelle Fawkes, from sex work advocacy group Respect Inc and DecrimQLD, told Guardian Australia the exemptions were “particularly horrific”.

Respect Inc’s submission said sex workers who also work as teachers or work with minors experience discrimination.

Some have even been sacked when their sex work became known.

Exemptions ‘outdated’

Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said there is no need for the existing exemptions.

“The Act has been in place for 30 years, so a review is long overdue,” he said.

“These exemptions are misplaced and outdated and not fit for purpose and therefore should be removed.

“Sex workers and gender diverse people should have the right to employment that is free from this sort of discrimination.”


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Religious discrimination

The QHRC is also focusing on several other contentious clauses in the Act. 

For example, a section that allows discrimination on the basis of sexuality for access to IVF.

It will also consider the controversial “genuine occupational requirement” clause that allows religious bodies to discriminate in circumstances where a person “openly acts in a way that the person knows or ought reasonably to know is contrary to the employer’s religious beliefs”.

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