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It seems that any little piece of good news has to be tempered with bad. The good news that Western Australia is to legalise prostitution is spoilt by news that the legislation will also include mandatory health tests and registration and ID cards as well as plans to move brothels into industrialised areas, out of suburbia and out of sight.
This article from Jessie Abraham talks about these issues.
Mandatory Control that discriminates and breaches human rights.
Written by Jessie Abraham
When I hear a member of the ‘general public’ say, “Legalise prostitution”, “yeah, sex workers should be tested, to protect their clients,” and, “registering sex workers with the police protects them,” I shudder, I get frustrated, and then I try to breathe, three deep breaths… Then I speak. I explain that my name is Jessie Abraham, I’m a sex worker from Australia, I work in the Northern Territory, where together with the local SWOP, I’ve started a media campaign against police registration of sex workers. I’m a loud mouth and my aim is community education and encouraging everyone to talk more about sex.
Obviously the general public has no idea about the dangers that registration and mandatory testing bring to a sex workers life. Not to mention the trashing of their rights. Privacy rights, sexual rights and blatant discrimination, since the Australian anti-discrimination regulations still don’t cover occupation. It’s still legal to someone’s occupation to discriminate against them here.
Does a dentist need to have a certificate on the wall stating they are Hep C negative- no, because they use gloves and protective equipment. Do they hesitate to remove the teeth of HIV positive person? No, because they are educated in how to protect themselves through universal precautions. All health workers use universal precautions on the assumption that anyone might be infected with a blood-borne virus. Yet the Red Cross will still ask everyone they collect blood from: Have you been a sex worker? Have you had sex with a sex worker? Even though sex workers statistically (Basil Donovan: LASH study) have better sexual health than the general public, and the blood will still be screened. Sex workers have good sexual health because we use good practice: STI checks before bookings, correct sized condoms and lubrication.
So why does the public think it’s ok to treat sex workers like this? Think about it.
Meanwhile at the start of this year, I started a relationship and I admit it… After few months we didn’t use condoms each and every time. Forgive me for I have sinned. Sex workers are GREAT at using condoms at work- however, if we are going to “slip up”, statistically it’s going to be an “unpaid” partner, otherwise known as a lover. Many sex workers I’ve spoken to explain how a condom is a good emotional barrier, it’s automatic protection- at work. However, when we feel for a person, sometimes we don’t want it to feel like work. I’m not necessarily advocating for it, I’m just telling it how it is and while I’m being totally honest I’m even going to risk all kinds of controversy and confess that it had been 2 years since anyone actually spoofed in my vagina and well… I wanted a child. Imagine that, a hooker having unprotected sex with an unpaid partner, otherwise known as a boyfriend, because she wants to breed! Of course, non hookers do this every week and no one bats an eyelid.
So then I went into the STI clinic and the nurse looked at my file, disgruntled.
“Well missy, it’s been a while since you have been here! 9 whole months! You should be coming in a lot more than that! Every 1-3 months!” I did my breathing exercise and said, “I bet you $250 that my tests come back clear, and I will choose when I believe it’s the correct time to test, since it is my body thank you very much.” The tests did come back clear.
Why would I come in monthly, if I have used condoms with every client I’ve slept with, I’ve used condoms correctly, I didn’t have any breakages or condom slippages, no symptoms, no real reason to panic at all… Oh… it’s because we are getting PAID for sex. Oh that’s right, it changes EVERYTHING!
Do they tell the most at risk pollutions with STI’s to get tested monthly? 16 year olds giving unprotected head jobs? Married men who visit beats? Businessmen who travel over to Asia? Divorced women getting pissed and having one night stands? Shouldn’t more communities be encouraged to test… Oh that’s right.. No one wants to talk about sex, let alone outside of wedlock.
Here is my sarcastic suggestion: Since here in N.T most new HIV diagnoses are heterosexuals, as in people flying over to Bali and elsewhere in Asia for cheap holidays and coming back with HIV, while customs are going through your iPhones and laptops looking for kiddie porn, why don’t they use that time to set up a STI clinic in the airport? Mandatory testing for everyone who has been in high risk areas, flu symptoms or not, even if these people say they always used condoms and lube. Huge amounts of people are coming back with HIV and other STI’s and not getting tested so they don’t know they are HIV positive. Wouldn’t that be a better use of tax payers’ dollars? They would call that invasive, and breach of privacy rights, ( like going through all your luggage and personal images, if you ticked yes to pornography without explain what is and what isn’t porn)
No wonder so many sex workers don’t want to out themselves, let alone place it on life. Stigma is still huge. This is another issue of mandatory testing- going to the clinic, requiring to tell a stranger you’re a sex worker, spreading your legs and your treated like you’re the dirty one, even if you used condoms every time.
In W.A, Australia there is talk to “legalise prostitution” and compulsory registration together with mandatory testing will be enforced- only to the sex work provider- not the clients. If we said- why doesn’t the clients require to be tested before they come through the door, it actually doesn’t make sense- I treat each one of my clients as they do have something- that’s why sex workers use condoms and lube and are very good at troubleshooting.
If a client came in with a health check certificate with the all clear- begging not to use a condom I’d think.. wonder how many other people you said this to, also state how its been at least a week since you were tested, so what happens if you fucked someone bareback 3 days ago, or you had oral sex from your wife who is cheating on you? With 100 other scenarios. Health Certificates don’t mean shit, and there is always a dodgy doctor who will give out slips. What happens if you do have a STI like herpes, your educated about them and you only get a outbreak/infectious once every 6 months. What if you have Hep C ( blood born virus) and every time you go to a clinic you’re reminded about this.
With clients knowing that all the workers “are clean” it can make it harder for condom negotiation and increases chances of customers attempting to slip off the condom because they know they probably won’t get anything, the old lines of “I’m married, I’m clean, your clean- why don’t we both just fuck.. It feels better”
Let give back the choice to sex workers, promote condom use through peer education, and if people want to have unprotected sex- there are ramifications, everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions and education is the key.. not mandatory testing.
When I visit London, Amsterdam, Denmark and Vienna for the World AIDS conference, I plan to shoot my ongoing documentary Comparing Countries Compassion to sex workers: exploring brothel bans, mandatory testing, police registration and how these laws effect sex workers. If you would like to be involved, interviews- please check out http://www.sexworkisrealwork.com