1 June 2020: The issue of Discrimination

Will Fiona Patten consider the issue of discrimination against sex workers?

Fiona Patten’s ‘Review to make recommendations for the decriminalisation of sex work’ will consider many aspects of the sex industry, including:

  • workplace safety including health and safety issues and stigma and discrimination against sex workers.

So do sex workers experience discrimination? Most people don’t notice sex workers in society, as we are largely invisible. Our survival strategy is to remain under the radar. You probably know a few people who are sex workers, but you may not know that they are sex workers. And if you don’t know a sex worker well enough for them to share their personal experiences with you, how could you know whether sex workers experience discrimination?

Even many sex workers don’t realise the extent of the discrimination they could experience. This is because many of us hide our occupation. When filling in our tax return, we say “make-up artist” or “personal trainer”. When applying for a business bank account, most of us don’t dare say our occupation is sex work. We do this to avoid the discrimination we fear. 

Perhaps many people distrust sex workers; they may not believe us when we say we experience discrimination. But do you believe the banks? Their own policies lay out how they discriminate against us, and our website now systematically identifies the extent of this formal discrimination. 


This is an issue that the Review must consider. That, and the issue of how adequate  Victoria’s anti discrimination laws are in offering sex workers a remedy when such discrimination occurs.