Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sex laws are making it difficult for people with disabilities to exercise their right to access prostitutes, advocacy groups in Australia say

From The Mercury in Australia:

Sex laws are making it difficult for people with disabilities to exercise their right to access prostitutes, advocacy groups say.

Brothel bans make the disabled vulnerable to unscrupulous operators and put their health at risk, they say.

One man was repeatedly harassed by a prostitute and her male associate, the Sunday Tasmanian was told.

The pair drove the man to an ATM and demanded cash, it was alleged.

Speak Out Association of Tasmania spokeswoman Julie Butler said prostitutes went "underground" when law changes in 2005 banned brothels and meant sex workers could only be self-employed.

"The sex workers we recommended disappeared, they didn't have the same numbers and weren't operating from the same venues," she said.

"The only way we can contact a worker is out of the [news]paper now.

"We're really concerned because we don't know the reputation of the people and we don't know what sort of health that person is in.

"We're reluctant to help people access sex workers."

Ms Butler said the laws also made it difficult for people with a disability to keep their sex sessions private from family members who oversee their finances.

She urged the State Government to introduce legislation that made it safer and easier for people to exercise their right to access a sex worker.

The Department of Health and Human Services sets out guidelines for carers and support workers to assist people with disabilities to access sex workers.

"Access to a sex worker should be seen as one of a number of options to consider when supporting people with disabilities to make decisions about their sexual needs," the guidelines state.

"Staff members who provide physical assistance to enable people with disabilities to access the services of a sex worker will not, merely by so doing, breach any law in Tasmania provided that they deal only with a self-employed sex worker."

Adult industry body Eros chief executive Fiona Patten (pictured) said: "You have health professionals and aged-care workers who see the sex industry as a valuable tool for providing services to their clients, yet the lawmakers do not take a commonsense approach to this and regulate the industry as they should."

She said current legislation was "dangerous for [sex] workers and dangerous for the clients".

"The industry is now underground in Tasmania," she said.

"Nearly every other state in Australia treats sex workers [the same] as any other worker and awards them the same working conditions and entitlements as any other worker."

Ms Patten, who is also head of the Australian Sex Party, said the State Government was sweeping issues in the sex industry under the carpet by delaying the release of a discussion paper.

"They feel that somehow if they discuss this issue it connects them in some way to the industry," she said.

"There are very vocal minorities that oppose the industry, and they are loud, and it does create this situation of inertia.

"So the Government just turns a blind eye to it because it's contentious and they know they won't be able to make everyone happy."

Attorney-General Brian Wightman was due to release a discussion paper on the sex industry in July.

Mr Wightman said "competing priorities" had delayed the release, and now it was planned to make the paper public early next year.