Greens MLC Tammy Franks introduced into the South Australian Upper House last year the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2018. The Bill mirrors an earlier, 2015, Bill which passed the Upper House but lapsed in the Lower House when Parliament was prorogued due to the State Election.
Apart from broader concerns about the regarding the direction of the Bill, one aspect, of particular concern to schools, is the lack of alternative regulatory or planning restrictions. We understand this could see brothels being established, or street prostitution occurring, in the areas surrounding Christian and other schools.
In addition, the Bill seeks to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) to insert a new prohibited ground for discrimination, ‘being, or having been, a sex worker’, and then makes discrimination on that basis unlawful in relation to employment or the provision of education.
In relation to the other prohibited grounds of employment discrimination there is an exemption for Christian schools. Similarly, in relation to education discrimination, there is an exemption provided for the other grounds of discrimination covered under this Division of the Act. The Bill does not make equivalent exemption provisions for actions taken in relation to ‘being, or having been, a sex worker’.
The changes to the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 proposed by the Bill would, on their face, mean that it would be unlawful for Christian and other faith based schools to continue to teach and hold to traditional doctrines, tenets and beliefs in relation to human sexuality and sexual practice. A staff member, or indeed adult student, could be involved as a sex worker whilst being employed or a student of a school and be protected by these amendments.
The Bill would impose, in our view, a completely indefensible constraint on the religious freedom of those seeking a faith based school with clear teachings on sexual morality.
CSA has written to the Attorney-General and Education Minister, as well as the equivalent Shadow ministers, seeking confirmation that these matters would be addressed should either major party support the legislation.