Scarlet Alliance: sex workers are feminists too

The F Collection is a blog project by F that highlights a feminist or women’s rights campaign, group or issue every Monday. Read on!

Sex work: it’s work, and deserves the same protection as other jobs in Australia.

That’s the message of Scarlet Alliance, the peak Australian sex worker organisation. They’re hosting a screening of Scarlet Road on May 2nd.

Check out information and booking details here.

Scarlet Alliance was founded in 1989 as the network of state and territory based sex worker organisations. Sex worker organising has a proud history in Australia. In the 1980s sex workers were at the front line of HIV AIDS prevention.

Scarlet has fought for the decriminalisation of sex work in Australia, and they have been successful in NSW and the ACT.

This goal has not yet been achieved in the other states and territories. In these states and territories, laws on sex work are varied but include criminalisation of street-based sex work in most states and criminalisation of brothels in Tasmania.

Elena Jeffreys, sex worker and executive member of Scarlet Alliance, says:

If we or our businesses or our clients are criminalised, then we face ridiculous barriers to basic human rights. Sex workers know that decriminalisation of our workplaces is the best way to ensure that we have industrial protections at work! And this includes migrant sex workers! Scarlet Alliance doesn’t support the harsh criminalisation of migrant sex workers’ work conditions; instead we believe that migrant sex workers should be able to access industrial and civil protections, just like any other worker in Australia.

Speaking of working conditions, that’s why Elena joined the Alliance to begin with:

I have been a sex worker for just over 15 years and my time in the industry has been quite varied: sometimes my workplaces totally rock and other times I need advice and support about my work conditions. Scarlet Alliance is run by sex workers for sex workers; all the volunteers, elected committee members, staff and spokespeople are sex workers! This means they are able to understand my issues as a sex worker; from the mundane to the complex and beyond.

Elena’s practical statement brings the issue of sex work down to earth. Sex work has long been a controversial issue in feminism, with writers such as Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel arguing that the existence of sex work is evidence of a patriarchal society, and that it should be criminalized and ultimately eliminated. Sex workers, however, argue that like any other workers, they have agency and are often able to make sex work work for them.

If you’re a sex worker, there’s lots of ways to get active. Elena says:

Anyone who has ever worked as a sex worker is welcome to join Scarlet Alliance! Use your preferred name and specify your preferred method of contact; Scarlet Alliance ensures your confidentiality is looked after. Its totally worth the paper work to join up; it is one very concrete way that you can support your national Sex Worker Association and from there get more active.

And for allies? Everyone can join the Scarlet Alliance facebook and twitter pages to stay in touch with campaigns. Make a donation to Scarlet Alliance; and you can raise the issue of sex work decriminalisation among your family, friends, work colleagues and those around you.

F also welcomes all sex workers – indeed all feminists and those who are trying feminism on for size – to our meetings.

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