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Monica Doumit: ‘Omit the part’ to end restrictions on prostitution

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The Greenwich bill seeks to remove all protections for religious schools in NSW law, taking away the ability of schools to determine who to employ and enrol based on whether they are willing to abide by the religious ethos of the school. Photo: EqualityCWiki/Wikimeida Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The Greenwich bill seeks to remove all protections for religious schools in NSW law, taking away the ability of schools to determine who to employ and enrol based on whether they are willing to abide by the religious ethos of the school. Photo: EqualityCWiki/Wikimeida Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

In last week’s column, I foreshadowed that I would write this week about Sydney MP Alex Greenwich’s Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill 2023.

I expected that this week’s column would detail the legion of attacks on religious freedoms the bill contained, particularly when it comes to how we operate our schools and other institutions. All those provisions are in the bill, outlined in its first 17 pages, and while they are important, it is page 48 that is the most astonishing page in the bill.

Page 48 has only 16 words on it. It reads: “Schedule 18 Amendment of Summary Offences Act 1988 No 25. Part 3 Prostitution. Omit the part.” The meaning behind the words “omit the part” is a near-complete removal of the remaining restrictions NSW law has over prostitution.

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While prostitution is legal in NSW, the law maintains some boundaries. For example, the law currently prohibits a person from living, in whole or in part, on the earnings of the prostitution of another person. It also prohibits coercing or using undue influence over someone to get them to engage in prostitution or to hand over any of the proceeds of their prostitution. In other words, it is illegal to pimp someone out and pimps (who are not brothel owners) can be fined or imprisoned or both. The ban on pimping would be gone under the Greenwich bill.

The law also currently bans someone from soliciting for prostitution inside or outside schools or churches or hospitals. This ban would also be gone under the Greenwich bill, which means it would be perfectly legal for a prostitute to stand in the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral after Sunday Mass and offer their services, or to do the same at after school pickup outside your local primary school.

If the Greenwich bill passes, the law in NSW will be so unbalanced that prostitutes in NSW would be free to solicit outside churches while participants in a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic could be imprisoned for six months.

There is also a ban on prostitutes overtly advertising, and a similar ban on premises openly advertising that they are available to be used for prostitution services. Currently, premises have to be a little more circumspect, advertising “rooms by the hour” and similar.

The Greenwich bill would see even those euphemisms gone, and public advertising for prostitutes a free for all. The goal, it seems, is to totally destigmatise prostitution and to instead characterise sex work as a profession like any other.

Laws that ban solicitation outside schools or churches carry with them the implication that there is something inappropriate about such work and that, while it might be legal, it should not be affirmed. Greenwich’s goal, it seems, is to remove that implication.

The goal isn’t only evident in this part of the bill. Greenwich is also seeking to add “sex work” as a protected ground of discrimination in the Anti-Discrimination Act. The effect of his proposed changes would be that a landlord could not treat a rental application from someone who listed their profession as “sex worker” differently to other applicants, nor a religious school insist that its principal did not also have a side gig as a prostitute.

The Greenwich bill seeks to remove all protections for religious schools in NSW law, taking away the ability of schools to determine who to employ and enrol based on whether they are willing to abide by the religious ethos of the school. The bill also aims to severely limit the protections for other religious institutions in determining who they employ and seeks to force religious adoption agencies to offer their services to same-sex couples or close.

There are other concerning provisions in this bill, but I don’t propose to write more on it at this point. I hope that the NSW Labor Government will keep its election commitment to undertake its own review of the Anti-Discrimination Act and not vote in favour of the one proposed by the Member for Sydney. Those in Labor-held seats would do well in picking up the phone to your local state MP, reminding them of this commitment and telling them that you don’t want to see the Greenwich bill succeed.

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