Representatives from the country’s sex worker rights associations have called for the full decriminalisation of sex work across all Australian states and territories following the recent murder of a woman in Melbourne.
Sex worker Tracy Connelly was found dead near St Kilda beach on July 21 inside a van that she and her partner of almost 20 years had been living in. Victorian police have cleared Connelly’s boyfriend of any involvement and continue to investigate a number of line of enquiries, including potential clients.
Over the weekend, The Herald Sun reported sex workers were cautioned about “an aggressive man in a blue Commodore” in the days before Connelly was killed.
Scarlet Alliance trans sex worker representative Mish Pony told the Star Observer the lack of decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria undoubtedly played a part in Connelly’s death.
“[It] is also the case in the murders of Dora Özer in Turkey, a trans woman sex worker, and Petite Jasmine in Sweden – a sex worker who was denied custody of her children and murdered by her abusive ex-husband,” Pony said.
“Although all these places have different models of sex work legislation, the lack of full decriminalisation results in discrimination and violence against sex workers.”
Pony said Scarlet Alliance and others, including the United Nations, had regularly pointed to NSW as a system worth emulating for the sex industry across the country and the world.
“NSW has decriminalised sex work, which is the UN-recognised best practice model for sex work legislation. The decriminalisation of sex work means we have better access to legal services, such as being able to report a crime against us, and social services, such as being able to access a peer organisation for support.
“Sex work is not inherently dangerous, but when the ways we work, our workplaces, or our clients are criminalised, we are more vulnerable to violence.”
Recent events in Greece, where the government has passed a law that allows for sex workers, drug users and undocumented migrants to be detained for HIV tests provide a clear reminder that sex workers are often used as scapegoats for society’s larger economic and social ills.
“It should be a great concern to us all that sex workers, drug users and trans people, who already experience high levels of marginalisation, are being targeted directly under the name of austerity measures in Greece,” Pony told the Star Observer.
“Many sex workers face multiple oppressions in their lives besides whorephobia, such as transphobia, racism and homophobia. This intersectionality underpins much of the violence faced by sex workers, as well as the lack of police support, and lack of media response to that violence.”
INFO: Anyone with information on Tracy Connelly’s death should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppers.com.au