Stop vilifying people because of their work choices
- Published: 15 May 2010
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A religious group who claimed sex work harms women and breaks up marriages has been forced to apologise to sex workers in Tasmania, Australia. But at what point does religion become bigotry in disguise, and is an apology enough, asks Emily Fletcher.
I am a sex worker. I have been a sex worker for over a decade. I am selective when sharing details of my working life.
So few within the community truly understand what my occupation entails, yet so many appear to have an opinion, not only of my job, but also an estimation of the kind of person I must be.
None have cast judgment as harshly and with such veracity as organisation known simply as The Family Protection Society.
This group of Tasmanians have stated that my work may lead me to develop a mental illness, that I am an uncaring mother, that I have no self-respect and my personal favourite: that the burden of breaking up Tasmanian marriages lays firmly on my shoulders.
The statements were not made in private, nor were there made to me as an individual. Disgustingly, they were published in Hobart’s daily newspaper and they were directed at all those whom they deemed to be working in “prostitution”.
Now that same paper has printed the following apology:
The Family Protection Society apologises to the sex workers of Tasmania and Scarlet Alliance for any hurt and distress caused to sex workers by statements made by the Family Protection Society and published in the Mercury Newspaper.
Scarlet Alliance is the national sex worker organisation in Australia. Upon enquiring about the reasons for the apology to be given all Scarlet Alliance were able to say is:
“Scarlet Alliance commenced action under the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act, 1998 in relation to the Family Protection Society. A conciliation process was held and an apology given and published by the Family Protection Society which advertises in the Mercury.”
Scarlet Alliance’s Tasmanian spokesperson Jade Barker was unable to offer anything further, saying only that the apology was a result of a conciliation and so as the Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, may provide a conciliation service that is neutral and impartial all proceedings must remain confidential.
Jade explained that when signing the agreement it was enforceable, as if it were an order made by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal and disclosing anything further may result in action under the criminal code.
I know that Scarlet Alliance has been advocating for anti-discrimination laws throughout Australia to address the unacceptably high levels of discrimination that sex workers experience.
I consider myself fortunate in the ability to access support and assistance from Scarlet Alliance and by no means am I diminishing the achievement of forcing this apology. I feel confident that, like me, all Tasmanian sex workers are grateful.
But is the apology enough and am I being ungracious in asking for a more genuine acknowledgement of wrong doing on their behalf? Is this another case of cruel fanaticism being condoned in the name of religion or even worse, as is with this case, the name of family values?
Like all sex workers I have a family and it is my responsibility to care for and protect them from extremism and hatred.
I don’t simply want the Family Protection Society to apologise to me, I want them to apologise to the entire community for setting a moral tone of discrimination and fear.
I want them to apologise for the presumption that they may care for my family with more vigour than I.
And most importantly I want them to say they were wrong.
The most disingenuous argument in acceptance of these discriminatory advertisements, has been the excuse that not everybody in the community thinks that way. Indifference is simply not enough.
I want to know who is The Family Protection Society? A Google search brings up no website or information about this group.
Who pays for the publication of these ads and how is it that they can ask for donations? The Family Protection Society’s affiliation with the church means it is tax-exempt, meaning that I as a taxpayer am subsidising their fanatical and hateful rhetoric.
If I am prepared to stand up and be counted, so must the members of the Family Protection Society.
‘Separate but equal’ is an attitude that always emphasises ‘separate’, not equality and while I have the grace to accept the apology given, I do not, and will not, accept that my choice of works entitles anyone to publicly vilify me.
Emily Fletcher is a 32-year-old Tasmanian sex worker. Visit the Scarlet Alliance website for information relating to sex worker rights in Australia.