Project Respect was founded in 1998 to challenge violence against and exploitation of women in the sex industry. We exist because women matter.
Since 2000 the organisation has provided intensive support through activities such as outreach, counselling, education assistance, legal and financial support, and social activities to encourage peer support and relaxation. Advocacy and work for systemic change has always been at the heart of Project Respect’s work.
In 2003 Project Respect spearheaded a country-wide campaign to put trafficking on the national agenda. That campaign resulted in the end of the mandatory detention of trafficked women, prosecutions of traffickers, support for trafficked women and changes to Australia’s laws on trafficking. Since this time Project Respect has continued its vital outreach to women in the sex industry. Additionally Project Respect has contributed to policy formation, legislative reform and research to benefit women in the sex industry, and particularly those who have experienced trafficking in Australia.
Project Respect has also established community programs and programs for law enforcement agencies, government departments and non-government organisations offering training on working with women in the sex industry, including survivors of trafficking.
Project Respect is a non-profit, feminist, non faith-based, community-based organisation. We believe that every woman who is part of the sex industry, including those who have experienced trafficking, have the right to feel safe and respected, regardless of her views or circumstances. We understand that each woman experiences the industry differently from empowerment to harm or somewhere in between. Our work is fundamentally about human rights - so we want to see an end to human trafficking for sexual exploitation. But we also want to see an end to situations where women feel they have no choice but to enter the sex industry, put up with disrespectful clients and access the support they need, including if they ever do want to leave. At Project Respect, we exist for the women who seek and need our support, without judgement.
We see that the sex industry is deeply gendered with the majority of people in the industry are female, and the majority of clients are male. As a feminist organisation, we believe that gender-based inequality exists, and that the sex industry strengthens and reinforces this inequality. We believe that everyday acts of violence committed against women in the sex industry are gender based and for this reason, the sex industry is more harmful than it is not, for the majority of women. Women who have experienced trafficking in particular are exploited because of their gender. These are structural and complex issues. But fundamentally, they are and always will be, deep human rights issues.
Project Respect acknowledges that women's experiences in the sex industry are different - there is no clear right or wrong. Our views reflect our work and our experiences, and we deeply respect the views and experiences of others.