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Disability, sex rights and the prostitute

  • 19 September 2012

Australia is seeing a divisive battle of rights. On the one hand are those arguing against people being forced into sex work and needing to perform sexual services for money. On the other are politicians and sex industry advocates calling for legislation to entrench the right for those with disabilities to be able to access sex workers.

There are some major questions at play in this particular issue. First and foremost is the question of why access to sex is being portrayed as a human rights issue in Australia.

This issue is being played out in South Australia by Kelly Vincent, a disabled woman who was elected to South Australia's upper house under the Dignity for Disability ticket at the 2010 state election.

Disability rights advocates are divided over Vincent's push to bring about the legal use of prostitutes by people with a disability. Vincent said: 'For those who are feeling frustrated, alienated, alone and sad because they can't access this experience, and for those people for whom the services of a sex worker could make a genuine huge, positive difference to their lives, in a private, intimate manner, then I don't see why that can't be allowed.'

South Australian Labor MP Stephanie Key has unsuccessfully advocated decriminalisation of the sex industry since 2010, now in 2012 Key has reframed the debate as prostitution being needed to allow people with a disability to experience intimacy.

Due to Key's past of pushing for legalisation of the sex industry, it is questionable whether she is using people with disabilities to further her pro-sex industry agenda and whether the reframing of this debate is an attempt to evoke sensibilities of political correctness by portraying access to prostitutes as a disability rights issue.

In both a national and a global climate, legalisation is on the nose and states such as Victoria and New South Wales are now considered failed experiments which have led to a massive expansion of both the legal and illegal sex industry. Such a claim was backed by former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon who stated 'Serious and organised crime is well entrenched in regulated industries such as prostitution and gaming.'

Vincent promotes the benefits of allowing access to sex workers stating it will improve the mental and physical wellbeing of those with a disability. What Ms Vincent has failed to concern herself with is the negative mental and physical impact sex