Press release from the Scarlet Alliance (adapted)
Experts from a dozen countries, meeting in Sydney last week to learn of the gains since decriminalisation of sex work in NSW in 1995, were dismayed at the massive threat to the world-leading law.
Open Society Foundations, Scarlet Alliance and Sex Worker Outreach Project attracted nearly 50 sex workers, community leaders, human rights activists, advocates and politicians from Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and Europe in a four day event planned to take the best of NSWs model to the world.
The meeting collectively expressed its shock that the NSW government would think of removing decriminalisation of sex work through a sex industry law review process. The delegates were unanimous in their call to NSW Government to maintain its world leading and highly successful decriminalisation of sex work approach.
The delegates spoke of the abuses against sex workers in their home countries, much of it at the hands of the police.
“Sex workers have been saying for years: 'Decriminalisation is the best form of regulation for sex workers'.Decriminalisation has delivered successful health outcomes and removed corruption from the sex industry in NSW. But the Liberal government are proposing a return to the bad old days,“ Janelle Fawkes CEO of Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, said. “Delegates from eleven countries have now come to Sydney to learn about how they can decriminalise sex work in their countries.”
Executive Director of SWOP NSW, Kylie Tattersall apologised to the international guests, “It is a great shame that delegates have travelled from 11 countries hoping to learn from the great gains of decriminalisation in the NSW sex industry, and to have to tell them the government are talking about taking decriminalisation away. It has been disappointing to campaigners who had looked to NSW as a hope for sex work in their own countries.”
“In Canada we are in court fighting for decriminalisation and we have come to Sydney to learn from the NSW experience.” said the Canadian sex worker delegates.
Currently the only jurisdictions with decriminalised sex work are NZ and NSW. Both have been praised in relation to their sex work legislation internationally, including in the recent UN report into Sex work, HIV and the Law.
Moving away from punitive laws that criminalise sex work has been a characteristic of sex work law reform in Commonwealth Countries in the last 40 years. All states in Australia have considered decriminalisation, with ACT and Tasmania adopting large swathes of the approach. South Australia is also looking closely at such laws.
Decriminalisation means the removal of criminal laws, including police regulation of sex work. Sex work is then regulated like any other business through local councils, planning laws, OH&S guidelines, Workcover NSW and the ATO. Sex workers can access police in the event of a crime without fear of arrest or harassment. “It was great to see how the police can work with sex workers as opposed to being perpetrators of abuse, as we have seen in South Africa.” Stacey-Leigh Manoek, Women’s Legal Centre, South Africa.
“Our Commonwealth countries adopted colonial laws, and sex workers in Commonwealth countries are united in trying to overturn them. We have achieved that to a degree in NSW and NZ. These Commonwealth jurisdictions are leading the world with some of the best law reform.” Catherine Healy from New Zealand Prostitutes Collective said. “Decriminalisation is a living example of the solution not the problem” agreed Anna Pickering, NZPC.
Support also came from the country where most of the Commonwealth laws originated: Niki Adams a spokesperson from the English Collective of Prostitutes said “As one of the longest standing sex worker organisations campaigning on decriminalisation since 1975 we call on the NSW government to maintain decriminalisation.”
"The meeting is taking place a month after the joint meeting of Commonwealth Ministers of Foreign Affairs adopted a recommendation that calls on heads of governments to undertake steps to repeal all discriminatory laws that hamper effective HIV response. Repeal of discriminatorily laws is the best way to fight the HIV epidemic." stated Olga Szubert from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
“As Scotland prepares itself to host the Commonwealth Games 2014, we urge members of Scottish Parliament to consider the benefits and protections associated with decriminalisation.” Luca Stevenson, founder of Sex Worker Open University said. “Legislative frameworks, such as the Swedish model which criminalise our clients, fail to protect us.”
Other countries spoke of the human rights and public health issues they experience as a result of criminalization of sex work. What they had in common was they were all fighting for decriminalisation and had looked to NSW and New Zealand as beacons of hope.
"NSW is an example to the World" stated Duduzile Dlamini, a sex worker activist from the Sisonke Movement. "We came to NSW to experience decriminalisation, something we are calling for in our country."
"In India the sex worker community is strengthened, empowered and collectivised to access our human rights, but we are not able to stop the raids and violations by police or government.” Minakshi Kamble from VAMP Sangli, India said. “We hope India will adopt this model and protect our human rights."
“Decriminalisation is a win-win situation for everybody" Maria Stacey from SWEAT, South Africa urged the conference. “It has the best possible outcomes for all parties, including sex workers, the broader community, and government.”
Australian sex workers will continue to campaign to maintain decriminalisation in New South Wales, and have similar laws introduced across the country.
“Decriminalisation means I can own my own home” Cameron Cox, a NSW sex worker said. “Decriminalisation allows me to feel a part of society.”
"South Australian sex workers have long been envious of decriminalisation, and are and are working towards gaining such laws in our state.” Tarkwin Coles, from Sex Workers Action SWAGGERR in Adelaide concluded. “We are shocked that NSW would consider abandoning human rights in favour of a legislative system with no benefits".
[This press release was received from the Scarlet Alliance- the Australian Sex Workers Association: Sydney: International Conference Delegates Urge NSW to Maintain Decriminalisation of Sex Work ]
By Michelle Faul, Associated Press
Some condoms burst. Others leaked like sieves. South Africa’s leading anti-AIDS group said Tuesday that allegedly faulty condoms are among more than 1.35 million handed out at the African National Congress’ 100th birthday party.
Health officials confirmed that all of those condoms have been ordered to be recalled. But the Treatment Action Campaign said no warning has been issued to people that they may have carried away defective condoms that could now cause them to unsuspectingly spread or contract HIV. South Africa has the world’s highest number of AIDS patients, some 5.6 million.
The third recall in less than five years raises questions about the quality of some of the 425 million-plus condoms that the government gives away each year, and the competence of the South African Bureau of Standards that is supposed to ensure their quality is up to international standards.
AIDS activist Sello Mokhalipi of the Treatment Action Campaign said he complained to the health department after “we had people flocking in, coming to report that the condoms had burst while they were having sex.”
Some were panicking because they were infected with AIDS and were concerned for their partners, he said.
Spokesman Jabu Mbalula of the Free State provincial health department, which distributed the condoms before the Jan. 6-8 celebrations, said they had recalled the entire batch of 1.35 million condoms around Jan. 18. He said there was no need for a panic.
But he was unable to say how many of the condoms were used or have been recovered.
In 2007, the government recalled more than 20 million defective condoms manufactured locally but recovered only 12 million. The Health Ministry said many of the condoms failed the air burst test.
That came after a recall the same year of 5 million defective and locally produced condoms. In that case, the Ministry of Health said a testing manager at the South African Bureau of Standards had taken a bribe to certify the faulty contraceptives.
AIDS activist Mokhalipi said the latest recall was limited to health workers going to the Bloemfontein hotels, guesthouses and bars where they had deposited the condoms and reclaiming any that remained.
He complained that the health department had not issued countrywide warnings to alert people not to use condoms distributed during the celebrations that drew tens of thousands of people.
“People came from all over and probably took many away with them, so those condoms are now all over the country,” he said.
Those who had used condoms that allegedly had burst should be told to get post-exposure tests and treatment, he said.
“We want the department to go out and tell people about these faulty condoms,” Mokhalipi said. “How can they say people should not panic if there are still clearly people out there in possession of these condoms?”
The scandal comes just a week after the Journal of the Royal Society Interface published a new study indicating increased condom use accounted for the vast majority of the decline in HIV infections in South Africa between 2000 and 2008. Epidemiologist Leigh F. Johnson and colleagues at the University of Cape Town found that increased condom use accounted for more than 70 percent of the decline.
Mokhalipi said people started coming with complaints about the condoms on Jan. 11 — three days after the celebrations ended — prompting his office to run some tests.
“We poured water into the condoms and they were leaking, not just in one place, they were leaking like a sieve,” he said. Looking at them, “you can see there are small pores” like pinpricks.
He said the health department had distributed a new batch of condoms last week, which did not leak under the water test.
Health department spokesman Mbalula said pouring water into a condom and applying pressure was not a proper test, though Mokhalipi denied applying pressure.
Mbalula said his department recalled the contraceptives to conduct scientific tests. He did not know when results would be available.
An organization that has a lot of experience with condoms, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, said many of the 10,000 to 15,000 prostitutes they work with often complain about the free government condoms. The Taskforce said they instead use a brand provided by an international charity.
“The CHOICE condoms that the government is distributing are very unsatisfactory and we have a lot of complaints about condoms breaking,” said Maria Stacey, SWEAT’s outreach and development manager.
South Africa’s government sources its condoms from several companies and rebrands them with its colorful CHOICE packaging, in bright blue, red, yellow and green.
Mbalula noted that all the condoms distributed in Bloemfontein were stamped to indicate that they were in batches that had been quality tested by the Bureau of Standards. Bureau spokeswoman Verna Schutte would only confirm that they were investigating the condoms.
Neither she nor the health spokesman could say which country or company had manufactured the condoms.
[This article was originally sourced from Messenger- Inquirer.com: 'South Africa recalls 1.35 million condoms' ]