Parliament: Questions Kelly's Asked

Sex and people with disabilities

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Disability questions regarding sex and people with disabilities.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: This morning I held a press conference where I discussed the taboo subject of people with disabilities and sex, followed by a lunchtime briefing co-hosted by the Hon. Steph Key of MPs and staff on these same issues. Tonight, along with Touching Base and the SA Sex Industry Network, I am hosting a screening of the groundbreaking documentary Scarlet Road. I have also brought in experts Rachel Wotton and Denise Beckwith from People with Disability Australia to discuss this subject, to brief MPs, the public and the disability sector as well as the media on this matter.

It is time that this issue was brought out into the open. Along with long-time sex worker advocate Ari Reid we have spoken about the important and often brushed-under-the-carpet topic of the sexual rights of people with disability. My questions to the minister are:

1.Does the minister agree that accessing sex, including the services of sex workers, is a fundamental right for people with disabilities?

2.Does the minister agree that we need to decriminalise sex work in South Australia to facilitate access to sexual expression for many people with disabilities?

3.Will the minister create policies within his department which facilitate a more open-minded and accepting attitude toward people with disabilities when it comes to accessing any form of sexual expression, including sex workers in this state?

4.Will the minister ensure that bureaucrats and government employed support workers and Disability Services staff are educated about sex and sexuality issues for people with disabilities?

5.Will the minister expand the definition of service providers to allow funding allocated for physical or mental health services for people with disabilities to be used to access sex workers?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion, Minister for Social Housing, Minister for Disabilities, Minister for Youth, Minister for Volunteers): I thank the honourable member for her very important questions about the sexual rights of people who are living with a disability. I am not insensitive to the sexual needs of people with disabilities or lack a certain understanding of the issues raised by the Hon. Kelly Vincent in her questions today. A close friend of mine has raised this issue with me in the past, and I am quite aware of the difficulties involved for people who are profoundly disabled regarding their needs in terms of access to sexual services.

However, at the present time, the purchase of sexual services is illegal in South Australia, I am advised. Should the laws change in the future and sex work is legalised at a later date, a future government will need to reconsider this issue again. Additionally, I should say that part of the agreement around an individual’s budget and their individual plan is that the money is to be used for the purposes agreed to in their personal plan and is not to be used for illegal activities.

The Hon. Kelly Vincent’s remarks will certainly stir public debate around this issue, and this is a good thing. We should be talking about the needs of people living with disability, and I imagine that some people will see Ms Vincent’s suggestion as provocative while others will see it as a basic human right that every human being should be able to enjoy. I believe that a mature society should be able to have a sensible debate about this issue, and I acknowledge that the honourable member has begun that process here today. I congratulate her for doing so. I look forward to listening to the views of honourable members in the chamber and the wider community on this topic.