Friday, 25 November 2011

State Election 2010

After a Federal Election in August, there was no time to rest before running for State in November.  

Here's My candidate Page on the Sex Party's Election Site:

Some local coverage of my campaigning:

Here are the results: 
Doing better than last election, I polled about 3.2%, and got five time more votes than Family first.  Pretty happy with that!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Real Candidates for a Modern Victoria: Australian Sex Party to Run Sex Worker Candidate in Prahran

During the 2010 State election, I decided I wanted to run as a sex worker.  I felt like it was something I wanted to give back to my friends, very few sex workers were out publicly.  While this invisible, I believe stigma, prejudice and discrimination proliferate.  This was a first step for me, not only was I asking people to vote for me I was asking them to accept me as a sex worker to be a representative for them.  If they could accept me  then they could start to accept sex workers.  

Here's the media release:

In the district of Prahran, the Australian Sex Party is running Christian Vega, a sex worker and long term sex industry activist.   “Sex work is real and valuable work. We deserve the same human rights as everyone else.” Mr Vega’s work in the sex industry has been in a range of settings and with a diverse client base.  He specialised in working with people with disabilities and those who are HIV+.  “Our work is highly skilled; often having to overcome of many myths, sex-negative messages and stigma present in the community.”

Mr Vega is deeply concerned with the erosion of the human rights of socially excluded people.  “It’s no coincidence that the more a community is silenced, the greater the discrimination they are faced with.” Mr Vega feels that this is apparent in government policy.  “In areas where the government fails to effectively engage with people who are directly affected by legislation, policy has generally lead to more negative outcomes for those communities.  Sex Work is only one example.”

In Victoria, sex workers face onerous testing regimes for Sexually Transmissible Infections despite epidemiological evidence that indicates STIs are less prevalent amongst sex workers than the general community.  “It’s an example of how perception may be inaccurate yet is influential in shaping policy, and there are many other examples,” said Mr. Vega.  “When you think about it, medical professionals, people who work in food service and hospitality, and any number of other professionals with a potential impact on public health aren’t required to undergo these kinds of health checks, so why should it be any different for sex workers? It’s costly to the community, misinformed and discriminatory.”

The candidate for Prahran has worked hard to ensure sex workers have a voice.  He is an active member of Vixen, the Victorian Sex Industry Network, a social support group that connects workers in the industry in a much needed way. Christian is also the elected National Representative of Male Sex Workers by the Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Worker Association. He has worked in community health for the past nine years, providing health education for workers in the industry as well as running a drop in service for street sex workers. “Sex workers are part of the community.  We can represent ourselves and we are sick of people feeling like they can speak on our behalf, especially when they are neither familiar with our issues nor have our best interests at heart. ”

Mr Vega is proud about running for the Australian Sex Party.  “We are a brave party, willing to go to extraordinary lengths to support human rights and civil liberties without fear.”

In a policy that was guided by Mr. Vega and formulated based on recommendations of sex worker organisations worldwide, The Australian Sex Party is seeking decriminalisation of sex work to replace the cumbersome and flawed regime of limited legalisation and over-regulation that exists in Victoria currently, “Because it is the best model for everybody,” says Mr. Vega.  “For those who are interested in reducing the harms related to the sex industry, evidence has shown that decriminalisation enables sex workers to make better decisions about their work.  In New Zealand it has lead to a reduction in street based sex work, maintaining sex worker rights without having to increase police sanctions against them. This is an achievement of taking a human rights approach.”

Regarding his involvement with the Australian Sex party, Mr Vega said, “I think it’s fantastic that a sex worker has had an opportunity to write the sex work policy of a political party. It’s an indication of the progressive direction we should be moving in; one that consults the community in a meaningful and powerful way.”

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It Gets Better, a misappropriation

My It Gets Better Video.  

For my queer sisters & brothers...

Feel free to share. X

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sex Workers Say: Anti-trafficking Crusaders are Not Our Friends 

So when the ABC's 4 Corners decided to air their anti-sex work sensationalist propaganda (see, sex workers were pretty much ignored.  Here's my response :

Sex Workers Say: Anti-trafficking Crusaders are Not Our Friends

Friday, 14 October 2011 12:24

A grieving mother, international organised crime, sensational re-enactments and dramatic music.  Oh and a good dose of sex. It seems like all the right ingredients for a compelling story, one that enthrals the public eye. The ABC’s 4 Corners and the tirade newspaper articles focussed on the so-called “sex trafficking” are demanding everyone’s attention and if you think this stories are affecting, imagine the emotional assault they afflict on sex workers. But what’s driving the hysteria? “While it’s very popular to talk about human trafficking at the moment, it seems the agenda that’s really being pushed is anti-sex work” said Christian Vega, sex worker and advocate for sex worker rights in Victoria.

“Being anti-sex work can be divisive in Australia,” Mr Vega explains, “The community wants to support the rights of workers, they want to have compassion and understanding of vulnerable people and it’s not within our culture to immediately take an abolitionist approach.  All these things are a challenge for the anti-sex work lobby. In order to get around them, campaigners have conflated ‘human trafficking’ with sex work in order to gain funding and broad based support.”

Mr Vega considers the true motivation of the supposed “anti-trafficking” agenda. “Some tax-payer funded organisations and individuals who claim that their goal is to end ‘human trafficking’ are disproportionately focussed on sex work. Yet, we know human trafficking happens in other industries. The obsession with brothels makes it clear: challenging actual exploitation is secondary; they just want to shut down the sex industry.”

Mr Vega continues, “They have successfully diverted funding, community support and political attention away from other instances of actual trafficking in order to bolster their moral crusade against us, sex workers. While brothels are raided every other week to find scant exploitation, sweatshops in Australia operate unchecked, migrant staff in hospitality wait for someone to notice their substandard working conditions and people desperate to migrate to Australia are entering abusive marriages in order to secure what they think will be a better life.  So long as sex work abolitionists hog the spotlight, the human rights of many go begging. ”

Mr Vega reflects on the outcomes of such a prohibitionist approach, “The overreaction of the Victorian Minister of Consumer Affairs further illustrates how the human rights of sex workers are not a priority.”  He refers to the increase of police powers to prosecute non-compliant operators in the sex industry, “To jump on the trafficking bandwagon and say the police are the answer to any human rights crisis is the same as saying carrying firearms increases one’s safety. History, evidence and plain common sense tells us: it’s delusional and absolutely ill informed.”

“It can be overwhelmingly frustrating that we, sex workers, not only have to demand our human rights but also have proposed sound, socially just, evidence based solutions and, yet, are totally ignored.”

Mr Vega gives some examples, “We know that granting working visas for migrant sex workers will bust the business model of people traffickers, who are taking advantage of the fact the Australian government refuses to allow these workers to enter our country like any other worker.  We know decriminalising sex work will bring its regulation, industrial relations and occupational health and safety standards more in line with the expectations of the community.  We know that resourcing us as sex workers to support each other is the most effective way of empowering us against vulnerability and exploitation in our workplaces.  We know all of this, yet the government flounders, chasing its tail to the tune of those who would rather see us out of business.”

“Sex workers need rights not rescue.  We’re not criminals or powerless victims- we are sick of being stereotyped as such.”  Mr Vega closes, “Sex workers are not the problem but we can be part of the solution.”

Monday, 10 October 2011

No One Is Listening To Us: Sex Workers

In all likelihood you probably aren’t aware that it has been 10 years since the death of the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria.  Understandably so; no one is marking the loss of this organisation.  There are few people left in the state who were a part of the ground breaking group.  “But they were significant and their absence is felt in every policy of discrimination, every patronising word and every stigmatising portrayal of sex work,” said Christian Vega, current Victorian sex worker and advocate for sex worker rights.

“There is no funded sex worker organisation in Victoria.”  Mr Vega explains, “What we have are a collection of services that are accessed by a minority of sex workers and whose survival depends on maintaining the stereotype that sex workers are desperate and helpless victims that need to be rescued.”  Mr Vega, who used to work for one of these services, expresses his frustration, “I’m sick of people thinking we are a problem that needs to be dealt with or managed- and in order to maintain funding, our so-called ‘helpers’ are ready to shove us naked and vulnerable before the press in order to justify the work that they do.”

“The approach is wrong, it’s ineffective and offensive,” Mr Vega continues, “No other community group would tolerate such a mischaracterisation; the GLBTI community would not accept a service staffed only by heterosexual people whose goal was to rehabilitate all the gays, no matter how well intentioned,” said Mr Vega, “but sex workers have to endure state funded interventions that depict us as ‘victims of trafficking’ or in need of ‘exit programs.’ And while these activities may serve the genuine needs of a small group of sex workers and victims of crime, the rights of the majority of us go ignored.  As supposed victims or patients, we are not trusted enough to contribute to our own well being; that’s why, in Victoria, it’s rare to find any current sex workers employed by any of these services. Whenever you read a story about us, if anyone has bothered to speak to a sex worker, it is always the voice of a service user of one of these services, not a sex worker who can actually be representative of our community. No one is listening to us.”

Mr Vega speaks about some of the consequences of the current situation in Victoria, “With no sex workers resourced for advocacy to the government, it is no wonder that discriminatory policies that undermine our agency, the proliferation via media of social stigma and substandard working conditions are continually implemented with the endorsement of government and the general community. Not one change of policy has markedly improved the lives and working conditions of sex workers.  If you want to see real change in the sex industry, how about you start listening to us, instead of listening to those who claim to speak on our behalf.”

Mr Vega ponders some solutions to the quandary in Victoria, “In other states, health departments fund their sex worker organisation to not only support vulnerable sex workers but to create an opportunity to connect all sex workers as a community and  provide a genuine voice for these workers.  These organisations have affirmative action policies that ensure the participation of sex workers is not hijacked by anything other than the agenda of human rights for sex workers.  With the constant doom, gloom and misery spoken about the sex industry, it’s clear that we desperately need a sex worker organisation in Victoria.”

Mr Vega reflects on the history of sex worker rights in Victoria, “Victoria was the first place in the world where a government committed funding for a sex worker organisation. And whether we operate in the open and are accepted by the community or we have to work underground, there will always be sex work.  I suspect nothing will get better until we return to the first step of listening to us.”

The Australian Sex Party was the only political party who had a policy of funding a sex worker organisation in Victoria at the last state election. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Landmark case for the rights of sex workers in Victoria

In July 2011, a sex worker who worked in a Melbourne brothel engaged with WorkSafe Victoria to tkae action against her employer for putting her in an unsafe situation.

The Media coverage was pretty offensive.  Here's an article written by the Age's Julia Medew.  I know after reading it, the person the article was about was in tears.  Here's her article:

Of course I'm wasn't going to take that lying down and wanted to write about all of the things Julia over looked.  Here's was my response:

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Human Download, Hungry Beast (ABC)

Downloading isn't just digital. Peer to peer sharing existed long before laptops -- traditionally, that's been the role of counselors and priests. But there are other people we go to, perhaps without realising it, to talk about what's going on. Meet three people whose work involves listening while others download their lives.

by Kirsten Drysdale April 19, 2011 at 08:08pm

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Scared and misguided: the crackdown on “illegal brothels” is not what it seems

I wrote this media release after the Victorian Government cracked down on a number of illegal operators.  Of course all of the media at the time wanted to push this image of dingy run down houses with young Asian women chained to beds.  The truth is not so simple; the definition of "illegal brothels" in Victoria actually includes a diverse range of businesses and I wanted to write about that.

Attention focussed on what is commonly termed “illegal sex work” has been high in recent months.  At the end of last year, a blitz on “illegal brothels” resulted in the shutting down of eight establishments. “But what are these establishments?” asks Christian Vega, a sex worker, activist and candidate for the Australian Sex Party in the 2010 elections. “There is a perception that an illegal brothel is easy thing to define.  The general community may think it’s a sub-standard building full of young women being held against their will and exploited.  The truth is not so simple.”

“The law only allows for a small number of opportunities to do sex work.” Mr Vega explains, “If it doesn’t occur in a licensed brothel, escort agency or as a registered private worker going to a client’s premises, then sex work is considered illegal.  Private workers can register a premise but current planning regulations make it impossible to do so. This doesn’t reflect the diverse reality of sex work or the experience of the workers involved. And more police is not the answer.”

Mr Vega goes on to explain illegal brothels, “They are hard to define- the term actually refers to a broad number of practices, not one specific concept.” He extrapolates, “There are many circumstances that would be considered an illegal brothel: a registered exempt escort seeing a client in a hotel room booked by the escort; a massage parlour where a worker negotiates ‘extra services’ without the awareness of management; a street sex worker who discretely takes clients back to their home. In this way, one can see the limitations of taking a ‘more police’ approach.”

“When the government gloats about shutting down illegal brothels one has to ask: what are they doing?” Mr Vega asks, “Are they evicting vulnerable women from their own home? Raiding massage parlours because someone may have given a customer a hand-job? It then leads one to ask: who are these efforts helping? The police should be there to protect us in case something goes wrong.  Casting police as enforcers against ‘illegal sex’ has the potential to stop sex workers reporting rapes because they fear the police will turn around and charge them.”

Mr Vega is suspicious about the drivers of this issue, “There are many interest groups who have an agenda against sex workers.  There are those who want to shut down the entire sex industry- conflating our work with the issue of human trafficking and exploitation.  There are also those within our industry who have an interest in shutting down the private sector.” He reflects on their efforts, “Their strategies are the same: take advantage of the confusion and lack of understanding of the sex industry to spread fear and block progressive policy.”
“Sex work is hard work and the government seem completely out of touch with what workers are going through.” Mr Vega shares his own experience as a part-time private escort, “As an exempt escort it’s illegal for me to organise a premises to see clients.  However, client demand for ‘in-calls’ combined with how quiet our industry is at the moment creates immense pressure for sex workers to break the law.  In the past two months I’ve earned less than a thousand dollars but I’ve turned down over $10,000 worth of work because I won’t see clients illegally. Speaking to other private workers, I know my experience is not uncommon.”

Despite the challenges of this issue, Mr Vega is optimistic looking at solutions to the issues, “I invite the government to engage in dialogue with sex workers. It needs to implement policies that will protect the health, safety and rights of workers. Currently, there is no funded organisation of sex workers in Victoria, as there is in other states, to provide a voice for sex workers on these issues.” With regards to illegal brothels, “The government has the power of eliminate the problem with simple amendments to legislation and planning regulations to allow private workers to operate from a premise.  It seems ridiculous that it is perfectly legal for a private escort to see a client in a hotel room, but if that same hotel room is booked in the name of the escort, it is suddenly considered an illegal brothel.”