Letter to Samantha Ratnam, re: Kathleen Maltzahn’s preselection for the seat of Richmond

I wrote this letter to Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Victorian Greens and MLC for Northern Metropolitan. I emailed it to her today and will send it by mail this week. For more information on how the Victorian Greens have repeatedly failed sex workers, visit Jane Green’s blog. Express your concern by writing to Greens Members, commenting on the Victorian Greens Facebook page, and liking and sharing the Facebook page Greens Voters Against Kathleen Maltzahn for Richmond. Stand with sex workers. 

Dear Samantha Ratnam,

My name is Sadie and I am a Melbourne-based sex worker. I am writing to you as the newly-elected leader of the Victorian Greens to express my concern about the preselection of Kathleen Maltzahn as the candidate for the seat of Richmond in the upcoming state election.

Kathleen Maltzahn is the founder of Project Respect, often referred to as ‘Project Disrespect’ in sex worker circles. Project Respect is an anti-sex worker organisation that has argued for the recriminalisation of the sex industry, based on the (disingenuous) assumption that this will alleviate sex trafficking. The Scarlet Alliance argues that the realisation of Project Respect’s aspirations would exacerbate sex workers’ vulnerability to violence, prosecution, and, in the case of migrant sex workers, deportation.[1] Project Respect has repeatedly advocated for the Swedish Model, which, as Jane Green, Media Liaison Officer for Vixen Collective, points out, is:

“…basically criminalisation of sex work by another name, has pushed sex workers underground in Sweden, increased harassment of workers (as well as a raft of other problems) and been completely ineffective in it’s stated goal – reducing the size of the industry.  It is predicated on the idea that all sex work is inherently violent and non consensual, erases the lives of male and trans* workers, and denies sex worker’s bodily autonomy and agency.”[2]

As I’m sure you can appreciate, the human rights of sex workers are low on major parties’ lists of priorities, so we must look to third parties who claim to value social justice. It is encouraging to see that the Federal Greens’ policy position on sex work reflects the overwhelming consensus amongst sex worker and human rights organisations in favour of decriminalisation.[3] However, it is both perplexing and frankly infuriating that the Victorian Greens see fit to so readily abandon this commitment by electing someone who has actively worked to undermine it.

Not only have the Victorian Greens turned a blind eye to the hateful and dangerous views of Maltzahn, but it seems they are also comfortable with ignoring whorephobia where it arises elsewhere in their ranks. As Jane Green has reported, when sex workers held a peaceful demonstration at a recent event for which Maltzahn was a guest, they were surveilled, harassed, and physically assaulted by Greens members.[4] To date, the Victorian Greens have not released a statement even acknowledging this incident, let alone apologising for it or holding their offending members to account.

The Victorian Greens repeated backing of Maltzahn despite the protest of sex workers suggests that the party does not care about the will of a highly stigmatised community. For a party that likes to brand itself as champions of equity and compassion, their apparent comfort with exacerbating the marginalisation of sex workers is incredibly hypocritical. Until this is rectified, sex workers will continue to demonstrate at Maltzahn’s speaking engagements, and will make sure that any voter who cares about the rights of sex workers – and there are a surprisingly high number of them – knows that the Victorian Greens do not, and thus, do not deserve our vote.

I hope that as the leader of the Victorian Greens, you step up and honour your party’s supposed principles.

Sadie.

[1] Scarlet Alliance. (n.d.). SEX INDUSTRY LAWS – Federal. Retrieved from http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/laws/fed/

[2] Green, J. (2014). Victorian Greens promote hate speech at LGBTIQ Event. Retrieved from https://sexliesducttape.me/2014/11/08/victorian-greens-promote-hate-speech-at-lgbtiq-event/

[3] Australian Greens. (n.d.). Women. Retrieved from https://greens.org.au/policies/women

[4] Green, J. (2017). Victorian Greens – still failing sex workers. Retrieved from https://sexliesducttape.me/2017/09/27/victorian-greens-still-failing-sex-workers/

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