Today at 4pm, sex workers will march on the Salvation Army headquarters in Redfern, Sydney, protesting what they argue is discrimination against sex workers in pursuit of financial gain.

Basically, the Scarlett Alliance – an organisation that represents sex workers – says that the Red Shield Appeal often falls back on stigmatising sex work as part of its fundraising appeals. They refer to a 2009 campaign which referred to the organisation ‘saving’ a sex worker named ‘Rick’ from his profession.

The Salvos apologised for that ad campaign. However, they repeated the campaign tactic for the Red Shield Appeal in 2016. The campaign consisted of an image of a girl on the donations envelope and the text “My mother was a prostitute. She’d lock me in the bathroom. So I started [self-harming]. I was 5…” 

The Scarlett Alliance claims that it both stigmatised sex workers and breached mental health reporting guidelines. They’re concerned that the implication is that those involved in the sex industry are innately ‘bad parents’ from whom children must be saved.

“I guess they must have figured that sex workers wouldn’t find out about it because we aren’t part of the community, and in any case it didn’t matter. When it comes to sex workers, obviously the Salvos finds it acceptable to continue to vilify, stigmatise and exploit us for financial gain.” said Jules Kim, CEO of Scarlett Alliance.

Though the Salvos offered an apology, the Sex Workers Outreach Project and similar organisations were agitating for an assurance that measures had been put in place to ensure this kind of fundraising tactic would not be utilised again.

PEDESTRIAN.TV spoke to the Salvation Army, who agree that their campaign used the contentious word ‘prostitute’ rather than ‘sex worker’, but maintain that they made every effort to withdraw the material from circulation and implement new internal processes to prevent it from happening again.

They also maintain that the focus of the case study used on the envelope is the problem of domestic violence – not the occupation of the mother.

“The Salvation Army acknowledges that the recent production and distribution of its direct marketing material unfortunately contained a term not conducive to its views,” said a spokesperson.

“While the purpose of the material was to highlight the growing issue of family and domestic abuse, we did not intend to imply that this occurs as a result of a person’s occupation including sex work.”

The protest is expected to start at 4pm today.

Source: Scarlett Alliance.

Photo: Getty Images.