Our Consent Counts when legislating on sexwork by Desdemona Falkenstein

I am writing to you to ask your views on the sex industry. Although this is an issue on which everyone has an opinion, it is rare for the voices of people who sell sex and sex workers’ organisations to be included.

This affects me personally as someone I care for works in the sex industry. I worry about them because I know they can’t trust the police to protect them as it is illegal for them to share premises and outside they can be arrested for soliciting virtually at the whim of the police. This creates a win-win situation for violent criminals, who can target people who sell sex knowing they are either working in isolation, with no potential witnesses or support, or with other people, in which case they risk arrest if they contact the police.

I see terrible stories in the media and they don’t represent the person I care about – but I know if anything happened to them, chances are it would be reported in the same sensationalised and objectifying way, hurting them and their family. People who work in the sex industry can’t rely on the same support as other victims – due to stigma and prejudice, they are not fairly treated by the criminal justice system and many organisations that work with victims believe all prostitution is violence and campaign that the consent to sex of people in the sex industry should not be treated equally. This is wrong.

Whatever kind of experience someone in the sex industry has, everyone suffers the same ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. This means they can’t be open about their experiences to most of the people they know and it places an additional burden of secrecy on them. That extends to their partners, friends, family and clients – people would judge me if I was open about knowing someone who sells sex. That’s part of the reason I’m using this site to contact you.

I hope that, whatever your personal feelings about sex and prostitution, you treat people in the sex industry fairly and equally. Support the New Zealand model of full decriminalisation, equal rights and respect for the right to consent to sex – because, for everyone, consent counts.

My vote at the General Election depends on this, so please let me know your views.

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