Coast artist, activist and educator Zoe Scrogings has returned from India where she joined an info-activism workshop for sex workers.
Coast artist, activist and educator Zoe Scrogings has returned from India where she joined an info-activism workshop for sex workers. Geoff Potter

Coast mum leads sex worker cause

A SUNSHINE Beach mother has become the face of a global movement trying to change the world's view on sex workers.

And she says she has been inspired by infamous Sydney madam Tilly Devine.

Zoe Scrogings has returned from a week-long trip to India where she attended the Sex Worker Freedom Festival, as part of the International AIDS Conference.

The annual conference aims to push for more respect and acceptance of sex work, as well as discuss policies and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS.

While Ms Scrogings is not a sex worker, she was invited to the conference for her artistic attitude towards community change and human rights.

It's an attitude she said was handed down from her great, great aunt Tilly, who featured in a recent Underbelly Razor TV series.

"Ever since I learned of my relation to Tilly Devine I have become fascinated with the life of sex workers around the world," Ms Scrogings said.

"I thought I had an idea of what a sex worker was until I became a part of this campaign. It has really opened my mind to a whole new world."

As well as taking a stand for sex workers and promoting safe sex through the prevention of HIV/AIDS, Ms Scrogings held social media workshops and painted colourful banners for a walking protest.

"I was just blown away with this movement and their stories, some of which broke my heart and some lifted me up. It was incredible.

"I think the thing that is really amazing is how real the issues are that were being discussed. Some are a matter of life and death."

While the main conference was in the US, about 1000 sex workers and activists, including Ms Scrogings, took a stand in India as travel restrictions on visas kept sex workers from joining the conference.

"They were determined to find a way to make their voices heard," Ms Scrogings said.

"Having a second conference in India was really about taking a stand against countries which discriminate against the profession."

Ms Scrogings created online campaigns around the issues discussed at the conference in a hope to send a global message.

"I was training people in how to use facebook and twitter and trying to get the word out there about HIV/AIDS, how to prevent it and basically building a support network for greater human rights for sex workers," she said.

With the knowledge gained from the conference, Ms Scrogings said she wanted to raise the industry's profile locally.

"I have friends who are sex workers but are too afraid to tell anyone because they will be discriminated against. They are a real industry and a thriving one, and they deserve respect."

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