In a much-needed move, sex workers in Sydney have called for an end to "whore-phobic" attitudes and greater protection under anti-discrimination laws.
Dozens of protesters marched from the Opera House today in a bid to have their rights recognized, carrying red umbrellas - a symbol of the global movement, while others made statements with T-shirts reading "whore power" and "sluts unite".
"We are human beings, we are people, we do a job and we are continually vilified for that job.
"So whilst we remained silenced, today is a chance for us to speak to the community, so we have a voice.
"What we want society to see is that sex work is real damn hard work, and we provide a service like any other industry," news.com.au quoted sex worker Julie Bates as saying.
The protest was organized by the Scarlet Alliance, which is using the occasion to lobby state governments for amendments to existing legislation that covers the industry. The campaign focuses on New South Wales, which has the highest concentration of sex workers - about 8000 - yet has inferior anti-discrimination laws compared with other parts of the nation.
The alliance has cited many discriminatory laws and situations - during applications for rental properties, bank loans and credit cards. It also highlighted that sex workers are also forced to pay up to five times more than other advertisers in newspapers, and lost custody cases because of negative stereotypes associated with their jobs.
"They think that sex workers are not part of the community," she was quoted telling AAP.
"We are absolutely sick of whore-phobic attitudes.
"Sex work is legalised, decriminalised, brothels are run in a professional and transparent manner, and sex workers are huge contributors to society, yet we face this discrimination every single day.
"It's absolutely untenable and we demand that it be changed."