High Court judge turns patron for sex workers

Friday, March 14, 2014
Former High Court judge Michael Kirby.
Former High Court judge Michael Kirby.


You might expect an ex-judge and a sex worker to be on opposite sides of the law.

But former High Court judge Michael Kirby has become patron of advocacy group Touching Base, which links sex workers with people with disabilities.

And in his new role, Mr Kirby has spoken out against hypocrisy in laws that can inhibit sexual expression for some people.

Mr Kirby – currently chair of a United Nations special commission into human rights violations in North Korea – will work to break the taboo of disability and sexuality by joining a panel of five inaugural patrons of the Sydney-based organisation.

He applauded the work of Touching Base in "challenging the hypocrisy in society and its laws and recognising the needs of people to have opportunities for sexual expression, including people with disability".

"If you deny sexual expression to human beings, cut them off from that aspect of their personalitiesand of their happiness, then you end up with a lot of very frustrated and very unhappy people," he added.

The four other high-profile Australians who have been announced as patrons of the pioneering not-for-profit organisation are respected writer, feminist and activist Eva Cox, Professor Basil Donovan, Associate Professor Helen Meekosha, and Peter Woods, an elder statesman within NSW Local Government.

Ms Cox said Touching Base "recognises the serious skills of sex workers and the full human needs of their clients with disabilities".

Touching Base is a not-for-profit organisation that works to advocate for and support people with disabilities who want to access the services of a sex worker. It featured in the award-winning documentary Scarlet Road and short film The Gift.

The organisation's president Saul Isbister said the appointment of the new patrons would "help us further remove the stigma associated with the sexuality of people with disability and reinforce the human rights of sex workers".

Mr Kirby will give a keynote address at a two-course fundraising lunch to inaugurate the five patrons at The Sebel in Surry Hills, Sydney, on April 10. Sex worker Rachel Wotten, who featured in the documentary Scarlet Road, will also discuss Touching Base's work, plus there will be a special screening of The Gift. To book tickets, go to http://www.trybooking.com/EHHW.


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