By Charlie Murphy

While the Religious Discrimination Bill did and continues to cause anxiety for the queer community, for sex workers – queer and otherwise – we feel it as well. The Bill threatens our way of life, our access to services, and even our employment.

The Bill that Won’t Die

For the Federal Election, the Bill is a cockroach that just can’t be killed despite being scuppered in the upper house earlier in the year. Since then, Albanese has promised his own version of it while Morrison has been contacting religious leaders promising to put it back on the table. Grassroots queer activists are sick of playing defence and trying to hold back bad laws, as are sex worker activists. But while both parties still hold this over our heads, we must unequivocally say that we accept no right to discriminate.

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Federally, both Labor and Liberal supported the passing of the Online Safety Bill, which was widely condemned by sex worker activists as having the potential to make our online labour and real-world safety more difficult.

Sex Workers Deserve Anti Discrimination Protections

Anti-discrimination protections for sex workers are sorely needed and at the top of the agenda for many states. In New South Wales, where most forms of sex work are decriminalised, there has been an opening for sex workers to be protected under the Anti-Discrimination Act, and Greens MLC Abigail Boyd has put forward an amendment to the Act for this purpose. While the Bill, as a stand-alone proposal, has not yet passed, Boyd announced at the Trans Day of Visibility Rally this year that Alex Greenwich had promised to include it in his upcoming so-called Equality Bill. In NSW, Labor must be clearer and publicly commit to protection from discrimination for sex workers. 

Such protections will change the nature of our ability to work whether we are current or former sex workers. Discrimination happens on the level of housing, employment, or provision of services. For queer sex workers, this can be pronounced and cruel through systems like social housing. For example, trans sex workers working in accommodation provided by the Gender Centre have conditions that prevent them from being able to work at their place of residence in their lease. Failure to comply with these conditions can result in them receiving warning notices. 

The Liberals Wage War on Women and Workers

As sex workers, there are real-world consequences for us just doing our jobs which can impact our families and work lives in our ‘civilian jobs’. Many sex workers come in and out of sex work, we have second jobs, many are single or partnered mothers. It’s clear that federally or at the state level, the Liberals are waging a war on women and on workers. 

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Between the Religious Discrimination Bill, the Online Safety Bill, and squeezing our work, welfare and cost of living, the Liberals are the enemy of sex workers and must be turfed out for us to win our rights. But Labor has not offered us true positive change either. For the federal election and next year’s 2023 state election, the queer community and sex worker community must be unrelenting in the demand for our rights.

Charlie Murphy is a trans sex worker and member of Pride in Protest and Scarlet Alliance.

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