Impacts of COVID-19 on sex workers in Australia

This report documents the impacts of COVID-19 on sex workers in Australia and the extensive mobilisation of sex workers and sex worker peer organisations to provide support to a community in crisis. It details the shortfalls of state, territory and federal responses to the pandemic and identifies how sex work criminalisation, stigma and discrimination have both informed and been intensified in those processes. These shortfalls conclude the need for a drastic change of approach to the treatment of sex work and sex workers in the context of COVID-19. you can read the whole report here

Media Release – CJ Palmer Appeal Verdict

The WA Court of Appeal has today handed down a unanimous verdict to allow the appeal made by CJ Palmer and to reduce her sentence from 6 years to 4, against the charge of grievous bodily harm for the transmission of HIV to her ex-partner. CJ Palmer will now be eligible for parole as of April 1st, 2019.

The WA Court of Appeal have accepted the appeal made by CJ Palmer against her sentence, in a unanimous ruling on the basis that the sentence delivered on 16/02/18 was manifestly excessive.

Lena Van Hale, Manager of the WA sex worker support project Magenta states, “We applaud the decision from the WA Court of Appeal to reduce CJ Palmer’s sentence to 4 years. There is more evidence than ever before that punitive laws criminalising HIV transmission are harmful to public health. While our laws do not yet recognise international best practise in this space. In recognising the original sentence as manifestly excessive the WA court of appeal take the first step toward undoing that harm.”

Evidence shows that criminalisation in these cases is detrimental to public health. Criminalisation of non-intentional HIV transmission reduces rates of testing, does not reduce HIV transmissions, and undermines effective health promotion.

“We are happy for CJ and her family to hear this decision from the Court of Appeal today. We hope that CJ’s remaining time in the criminal justice system is free from the harmful coverage and discrimination that surrounded her incarceration”

Throughout her trial advocates called for courts and policy-makers to reject the application of criminal law in cases of alleged non-intentional HIV transmission, in line with Australia’s existing Guidelines for the Management of People with HIV who Place Others at Risk, and in line with UNAIDS guidance around management of HIV transmission.

Sexual orientation, gender identity & intersex status discrimination information sheet

From 1 August 2013 it will be unlawful under federal law to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their:

  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • intersex status

Same-sex couples are now also protected from discrimination under the new definition of ‘marital or relationship status’ (this was previously ‘marital status’).

The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 (Cth) (SDA Amendment Act) inserts the new grounds into the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA).

Most states and territories have some form of protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the SDA Amendment Act introduces more inclusive definitions and addresses gaps such as a lack of coverage for acts or practices of the federal government. It also qualifies the exemptions for religious organisations to the effect that it does not apply to conduct connected with the provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services. It also includes the new ground of intersex status which is not covered by any other law.

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How Legislation is made – a brief summary

The steps to a new law (including changing an existing law);

  1. The new law is written by the government, known as the draft legislation or draft bill.
  2. The government releases the draft legislation for comment and feedback. Based on the feedback the government may alter the draft legislation.
  3. The draft legislation is presented to the lower house of parliament and read through three times. In the second reading, the lower house members debate the bill and can vote to make changes or amendments to the bill. After a third reading the lower house then votes to accept or reject the bill.
  4. Once the lower house of parliament votes to accept the bill, it then goes to the upper house and the bill follows the same process there. As in the lower house, the upper house can vote to make amendments to the bill. The upper house then votes to accept or reject the bill.
  5. When the upper house has accepted the bill it goes back to the lower house. If the lower house votes to accept the bill it then goes to the state governor to be signed (into law). It is at this point that the bill becomes an act of parliament and is the new law. Some acts of parliament or parts of the act may not come in to effect immediately but it will be written into the act when it or parts of it come into effect.