A lot of people have been talking about the census and the ABS’ decision to retain our names and addresses and to use them basically as they see fit to link to other information and databases.
It’s a privacy concern for everyone, but for me – and all other sex workers – it’s immediately worrying.
I just completed the census – and did so honestly. But by doing so I have put myself at risk. I stated that I am self employed, and that I am a sex worker providing companionship and sexual services for women. And I had to put my name and address on that information.
By doing so I created a real risk that one day that data may be used against me in some way.
Living in NSW where sex work is legal, I have less reason to be concerned. And Australia in general is fairly tolerant of sex work. But we live in a time of creeping conservatism. Of governments and people becoming less tolerant and more judgmental. And while today’s government may not care that I am a sex worker, what about next years?
And who knows in the future what data our government will share with other nations like the US in the name of chasing terrorists. The US, where sex work is a matter of near hysterical fear. Will my name end up on some TSA watch list in the US to prevent me entering the country?
This sort of thing may sound far fetched. But really that’s the point. We fight hard to win our freedoms, but just because we have them doesn’t mean that will always be the case. So it’s important to think about all of the bad things that can come from giving our governments more power over us.
We were lucky this year, with the state government inquiry into the sex industry. The government chose not to listen to the conservatives who hate sex work, the churches who hate sex, and the sex work antis who can’t or won’t believe that people can make informed choices about doing sex work.
Instead they listened to the voices of sex workers, scientists, police – and I expect the politicians and public servants who remember the bad old days when sex work was illegal and corruption was rife in the NSW police force because of it
My fear is that one day the census will become a treasure trove for a less benign government who sees a few votes in punishing sex workers, or excluding known sex workers from their country.
Paranoid? Perhaps, but that is how we prevent overreach by our political class.