Article Title:Auckland Council's War Against Sex Workers
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Politics and religion commentator Craig Young
Published on:3rd May 2013 - 10:48 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:13253
Text:The Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill is a badly drafted, draconian, excessive and transphobic private member's bill. It must be defeated. This private members bill states that it does not seek to sideline sex work that occurs within private premises, despite the fact that the Manukau and Auckland City Councils have also prohibited the provision of escort sex work from council rental accomodation, and intends to restrict it to brothels only. The bill is intended to enable the Auckland City Council (and possibly other local authorities) to make enforceable anti-soliciting bylaws. It will oblige the council to signpost any specified area, review any such bylaw and arrange for its repeal should it be shown not to be meeting such needs. It provides for warrantless police arrests and one thousand dollar fines in the context of soliciting for sex work in an illegal area, as well as similar fines against motor vehicles in this context. This bill was introduced to Parliament on August 20, 2010. It was allowed to pass its first reading (82-36) and was then forwarded to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. The House of Representatives took note of an interim report from the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, during which time the Greens and Mana Party made their opposition to the bill clear. They opposed the note (105-15). Predictably, the same cannot be said for New Zealand First. NZF List MP Asenati Lole-Taylor also noted that street sex work occurred at other areas outside Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, including Atkinson Avenue (Otahuhu) and Great South Road (Manurewa). New Zealand First supports the bill because of alleged public nuisance concerns, the visibility of sex work and its open display. The aforementioned interim report was made on February 29, 2012. There are currently no listed Supplementary Order Papers. The bill will be reported back to the House on July 1, 2013. Altogether, 252 submissions were received. PUMP (Pride and Unity for Male Prostitutes) referred to the incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst men who have sex with men. The Human Rights Commission opposes this bill, because it is a disproportionate response to its alleged problem, and the Summary Offences Act 1981 and other public nuisance legislation can be used against any bona fide instances of public nuisance or antisocial behaviour. Furthermore, in its current form, the bill contravenes the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the specified fines are excessively punitive. Agender opposes this bill because for many transsexual female street sex workers, street sex work is seen as survival sex, given the context of severe difficulties with poverty, homelessness, addiction and often absence of any other significant employment options, especially during the current recession. The Auckland University School of Public Health opposes the bill because of occupational health, safety, poverty and homelessness issues. The Cartier Trust objected to the possible use of condoms and lube in instances of police apprehension, which would sabotage existing ON-TOP/NZPC initiatives around safe sex in the context of street sex work. ECPAT opposes child prostitution, and opposes this bill as well. It is concerned about isolation, health and safety risk issues for street sex workers, questions of what constitutes evidence in this context and the absence of serious initiatives to address the context of street sex work. Justice Acts New Zealand raised similar concerns to the School of Public Health, Cartier Trust and ECPAT in the context of excessive penalties for contravention of the proposed bill and questions about whether it conforms to Bill of Rights specifications. Like ECPAT, the Childrens Commissioner also expressed specific concerns about the effects on underage sex workers. Granted that underage sex work is illegal, but merely making street sex work illegal would do nothing to address contextual issues about youth sex work. Frequently, this occurs in transition from care to independent living circumstances, and given the prior existence of serious family dysfunction and alcohol and drug problems amongst these at-risk youth, this bill will make it that much harder for youth workers to reach them in this context. The Family Planning Association also opposed this bill. It made particular reference to the de facto criminalisation of transsexual sex workers that would result, given that under current council bylaws, they are forbidden from working from council rental accomodation, and are often liable to extreme poverty. Furthermore, the bill contravenes Ministry of Justice advice about Street-Based Sex Work in Manukau, provided in 2009. The New Zealand Police are sceptical about the merits of this bill, which is also revealing. They argue that the bill will result in the displacement of existing street sex work, and expressed concerns about the excessive scope and ambiguity of the legislation. It would also increase stress and demands on already stretched frontline policing staff. They question the need for this bill. The New Zealand Sexual Health Society opposes this bill because it will not solve the alleged problems related to street sex work, will criminalise vulnerable transsexual street sex workers, exacerbate existing STI/HIV prevention concerns and constitutes inappropriate use of police resources. Streetreach and the Life Centre Trust oppose the punitive fines and express anxieties that in all probability, this proposed bill will merely drive street sex workers underground, or burden them with excessive and unpayable fines, given their restricted income. Although excessive attention has been paid to the Christian Right, which predictably blindly supports this punitive and unworkable private members bill, commendation must be given to the Auckland City Mission and Christchurch's St Lukes in the City Anglican Church. Both of these organisations oppose the bill's implicit recriminalisation of street sex work, noting that the bill seeks to criminalise vulnerable people, affecting individuals and agencies that work in the fields of poverty relief and against homelessness. Both churches refer to isolation of street sex workers, reliance on subjective enforcement criteria, questionable evidential requirements and the neccessity of survival sex in this context. Both note that the proposed bill recriminalises soliciting and would sabotage collaborative community outreach efforts toward street sex workers. VUW Faculty of Law Lecturer Dean Knight also opposes this bill, worried at its excessive scope, concerned at the absence of judicial accountability for local government and its disproportionately punitive effects. Finally for the voices of reason, the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective also opposes this bill. They highlight questions of stigmatisation, isolation, STI/HIV prevention difficulties, enforceability and constraint concerns, as well as aforementioned questions of street sex workers human rights and civil liberties under the Bill of Rights and international treaty obligations for New Zealand. When it came to the supporters of the bill, I was struck by the widespread presence of negligible concern about the health and safety consequences for street sex workers in this context. All that the pro-bill submitters seemed to care about was public nuisance, the visibility of soliciting, litter and allegations about toileting, as well as making repeated allegations about violent, antisocial and public nuisance behaviour from sex workers and their clients, but not vigilante groups opposed to sex work, like Papatoetoe's PROS. The Christchurch City Council agrees with the Manukau and Auckland City Councils, and backed the effective nationwide recriminalisation of soliciting within specified areas. It made questionable assertions that the Summary Offences Act 1981, Litter Act, Crimes Act 1961 and other public nuisance/antisocial behaviour prevention laws were unequal to the task, which contrasts with the New Zealand Police's observations within their submission. "Residents" lobbied the CCC in November 2011, leading the CCC to convene a working committee in February 2012. The CCC makes allegations about antisocial behaviour from street sex workers on Manchester Street, but as noted above, St Lukes in the City Anglican Church opposes the need for this bill because it is concerned about the effects on impoverished and vulnerable street sex workers. Again, practically no consideration is given to the health, safety and risk to street sex workers were this private member's bill to become law. Other supporters of the bill included a range of Auckland local bodies, fundamentalist churches and pressure groups and business groups, with minimal exceptions to this rule. They included the Auckland Sikh Society, the Conservative Party, the Franklin Christian Lobby, Hunters Corner Town Centre Society, LifeChurch Manurewa, Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board, Manukau Christian Charitable Trust, New Zealand Punjabi Cultural Association, Nova Institue, Otahuhu Mainstreet and Commcerical Association, Sina Holdings, Stop Demand Foundation, Manukau New Life Centre, Papatoetoe Christian Fellowship, and (sadly) Manurewa Maori Wardens and National Council of Women...and Family First. Often, these submissions were cursory, pro forma and ignored evidence-based public health, law enforcement and human rights and civil liberties concerns about the excessive scope and purpose of this bill. This was especially the case with most of the fundamentalist submissions, which seemed orchestrated and co-ordinated. As for Family First, its submission was one of the worst offenders in this regard. The submission wanted prohibitions against brothels as well as soliciting, and made continual anecdotal assertions about alleged public nuisance and antisocial conduct, without even bothering to corroborate it through use of any substantive source material. In summary, then, this accursed private member's bill is nothing more than an old-fashioned moral panic against desperate and vulnerable transsexual (and some cissexual) street sex workers. Their occupational health and safety trumps prescriptive 'community standards' and mischievous objections that are amply addressed by existing legislation. This bill must fall at its second reading. Unfortunately, it won't end there, however. The aforementioned NZF List MP Asenati Lole-Taylor has introduced a second anti-soliciting bill, the Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Amendment Bill, to the ballot box. Ignoring the above objections to the current anti-soliciting bill, Lole-Taylor says that it will "allow people to again feel safe in their neighbourhoods". For further information about both pieces of proposed legislation, as well as the select committee submissions related to the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill see: Parliament: http://www.parliament.nz/ New Zealand Legislation: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/ Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 3rd May 2013    
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