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Australia: Salvation Army apologizes to sex workers

May 23, Australia -- In a lead up to its major Fundraising campaign, the Salvation Army of New South Wales Australia, launched an offensive add on May 22nd 2009. It read: "To get Rick out of prostitution, we had to resort to smuggling. This is the door that saved his life. When Rick left a message on a computer screen inside our Oasis van we had to act fast. Disguised as a client, we picked him up, took him to the airport and flew him interstate to one of our rehab centres, miles away from the heroin and hustling…”

”…Months later, Rick lives a new life, one of rehab and training. A diet of self-belief and hope has helped Rick build his confidence, and he walks through life, like everyone else. With our help, his wounds are starting to heal.”

Immediately reacting to this blatant capitalisation on stigmas associated with sex workers, the Scarlet Alliance (http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/) snapped into action and contacted the PR company handling the campaign. Elena Jeffreys, the President of Scarlet Alliance, communicated to the Salvation Army that the ad is capitalising on community unease about sex work, and perpetuating discrimination and prejudice against sex workers. The add also equates sex work with smuggling and put in jeopardy the relationship that Scarlet Alliances members have with the Salvation Army. She also pointed out that the ad takes advantage of a rare and dramatic situation that the Salvation Army does not deal with normally, whereas the Scarlet Alliance and its membership do this work everyday. Since, the Salvation Army is not an organisation that specialises in sex worker support, Elena pointed out that they were collecting money under false pretences.

Not only did the Salvation Army apologize publicly at the press conference that was organised to launch the fundraising project, they also pulled the ad from the media outlets that were set to run it. The Scarlet Alliance was present at the press conference and used the opportunity to talk about anti-discrimination laws, stigma in advertising, and the fact that sex workers are not the cash-cow of cash-strapped organisations. The message that was sent loud and clear was: It is not ok to use sex workers to raise funds!

Video reportage is available on LIVE NEWS - click here