Tasmania’s coronavirus restrictions have been criticised as inconsistent for allowing sex work while dancing remains restricted but a spokeswoman for the Australian Sex Workers Association says the two cannot be compared.
After being shut down on April 2, sex work was allowed to resume in Tasmania from June 26, however dancing remains off the table except at weddings by the newlywed couple, their parents or guardians, and the bridal party.
Comment has been sought from Public Health on the reasoning behind why sex work is allowed but dancing is not.
Scarlet Alliance (Australian Sex Workers Association) Tasmania coordinator Lisa Schmidt said the challenges of managing the COVID-19 risk on dance floors in bars and night clubs was something very different to sex work.
“Sex workers have comprehensive strategies when it comes to occupational health and safety and have the same WorkSafe obligations as other businesses,” Ms Schmidt said.
“It’s a strange comparison.”
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Ms Schmidt said sex workers have been very proactive in managing COVID-19.
“We’ve always been a very health and safety focused workforce and many sex workers closed their businesses as a precaution before the restrictions came in or adapted their business to contact-free and online work,” she said.
“Sex workers have also adapted face-to-face work to reduce risks.”
Sex work businesses in Tasmania are required to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and they must follow the WorkSafe Safety Plan guidelines for personal services which also cover hairdressers, barbers, beauty services, and diet and weight reduction centres.
Scarlet Alliance has prepared a template to assist sex workers in preparing their COVID-19 Safety Plan.
The WorkSafe guidelines state small businesses providing personal services should keep an appointment book but it is not requirement.
“These records should be kept for each worker and be held for 21 days to assist contact tracing of customers/clients if there is a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace,” the guidelines recommend.
Ms Schmidt said the sex industry, like all other businesses in Tasmania, was required to take measures to account for those who enter the workplace.
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She said Scarlet Alliance had welcomed the Tasmanian government’s evidence-based approached to the easing of sex work restrictions alongside the easing of restrictions for other face-to-face businesses.
“Unfortunately in some other states and territories, the approach has been less sensible leading to discriminatory restrictions applied to the sex industry and devastating economic hardship for sex workers,” she said.
Ms Schmidt said sex workers, like most other Australian workers, had been hit hard by COVID-19.
“Many sex workers have little to no access to government support,” she said.
“In Tasmania, all sex workers are required to be self-employed.
“Laws that marginalise, as well as stigma and discrimination, have left sex workers in Tasmania particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.”
She said this had included homelessness and housing instability; stress; and the inability to buy food, pay bills or access medicine or medical services.