Decriminalising sex work central to research looking at the everyday lives of sex workers

Roxana Diamond is a PhD Candidate within the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work at Flinders University. She is conducting peer based research, looking at the everyday lives of South Australian sex workers. In 2016 Roxana graduated with first class Honours in Social Work and explored the criminalisation of sex workers in South Australia.

Roxana is passionate about sex worker rights and is involved with the campaign to Decriminalise sex work in South Australia.

Roxana wrote the following about her research at Flinders University;

“I am a PhD candidate from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work. My research looks at the everyday lives of sex workers in South Australia and is unique as it is peer-based research. Throughout my PhD experience my research has intersected with my lived experience, activism and the current bill that aims to decriminalise sex work. Decriminalising sex work is central to my research as working towards improving the lives of all sex workers my main motivator.

The Bill to Decriminalise sex work in South Australia has a long history and is in its 13th iteration. South Australian sex workers and SIN (Sex Industry Network), the only peer-based community group advocating for the rights and wellbeing of sex workers in SA, have been at the forefront of this campaign. We have worked tirelessly for a Bill that represents our diverse needs.

The stigma around sex work, on top of prohibitive legislation, further disadvantages sex workers and feeds back into the conditions that continue to marginalise our community. We are at risk of a Bill that undermines what sex workers have long campaigned for.

Current debates on the Bill show how both legislative and cultural factors continue to expose sex workers to stigma, prejudice and discrimination. Our lives as sex workers are often unfairly depicted and harmful narratives that suit the rhetoric of those opposed to law reform go unquestioned.

Criminalised sex workers experience far greater harm than those working within a decriminalised setting. Decriminalisation means that consenting, adult sex workers will no longer be criminalised. But this does not mean no regulation, as some believe, rather, government regulation and protection, just like any other industry.

Most importantly, the police will not be involved as regulators unless there is a breach of law, meaning sex workers can approach the police to report crimes without fear of arrest or harassment.

The full decriminalisation of sex work has the power to set a precedent in terms of how we treat sex workers and other marginalised communities. But the principles underpinning decriminalisation, such as human rights and harm minimisation, are undermined when politicians compromise.

The Bill in its purest form fully decriminalises the sex industry, but a few amendments have passed the Legislative Council, and more may come up for debate in the House of Assembly.

One amendment (24A) allows a police officer, at any time, day or night, to enter into, break open with force and search a sex work premises, if the officer has reasonable cause and without warrant. The police already have extensive powers to investigate suspected criminal offences. The amendments to the current Bill are not necessary and put sex workers at further risk of continued harassment at the hands of the police.

The Bill in parliament had the potential to the lead the way in legislative reform, as no jurisdiction has successfully passed a Bill that fully decriminalises sex work. Rather than focusing on evidence-based research and harm minimisation, fear-based arguments prevail. Leading with fear and ignorance only creates a stalemate or detrimental outcomes for the sex work community.”

Read more about the how South Australia is a step closer to decriminalising sex work in Roxana’s article in The Conversation

Posted in

Leave a Reply