|Not in My Own Backyard" (NIMBY) is a phrase that is currently being used in the Manukau antisoliciting bill debate. But what does NIMBY mean, who uses it, and what relationship does it have to contemporary political concerns?
What leads individuals and groups to declare 'Not In My Own Backyard?" NIMBY politics tend to occur when a particular individual or organised and reasonably coherent group perceives an object or population to be transgressing certain perceived boundaries and causing either potential or actual 'harm' or 'risk' to others. It isn't neccessarily always reactionary- local New Zealand environmental controversies often arise when progressive NIMBYs take exception to a perceived environmental or health risk that affects local residents and particularly, children or other vulnerable citizens. However, NIMBYs also have a darker side. In the case of Manukau street sex workers, Manukau business interests and local anti-sexworker vigilantes have undertaken NIMBY activity because they construct the situation in the following manner. The "residents" and "businesses" are virtuous 'insiders", engaged in legitimate commercial activities, childrearing and employment outside the sex industry. They view themselves as defining who enters and occupies particular territories. They view the Manukau street sex workers as 'outsiders', particularly given the fact that as Hone Harawira and Pita Sharples noted when they first debated the issue in an earlier incarnation of the Manukau antisoliciting bill, and rejected the bill on the basis that street sex workers were likely to be impoverished Maori women or transwomen. How are the sex workers constructed as 'others?' Significantly, the Auckland City Council booklet gave the game away when it shows a Maori or Pacific Island whakawahine/ fa'afafine/' street sex worker apparently defecating or urinating in a public place. The street sex workers are 'others'- despite the fact that one of the anti-sexworker local body politicians is a Samoan community member, Leau Peter Skelton of the Papatoetoe-Otara Local Board, the sex workers are seen as ethnic outsiders and "others". They are also described as engaging in antisocial public behaviour, such as al fresco toileting, without due attention being paid to the context- the Manukau City Council created this problem in the first place. It is the former local authority, Manukau City Council (now Auckland Council) that made it impossible for street sex workers to operate from council rental accomodation, or for street sex workers or pub patrons to use closed council toilets after midnight due to council closure. Are the street sex workers engaging in violence, intimidation, standover tactics, propositioning local men, 'indecent exposure' and other delinquent behaviour? If some are, then as I said in a previous article, there are existing statutes that can be employed in this context. The Summary Offences Act 1981 contains adequate existing safeguards against those who engage in 'disorderly behaviour,' "offensive behaviour or language", intimidation, obstruction of public thoroughfares, public drinking and indecent exposure without the need for further anti-sexworker legislation. Why might some individual sex workers be doing so? In the case of transgender street sex workers, they experience constant discrimination on the basis of accomodation, employment outside the sex industry and within brothels, further education and alternative employment opportunities based on skill acquisition. Thus, they become involved in street sex work and to blot out the fact that they are engaging in survival sex, they become hooked on drugs and alcohol and consequently engage in violence or intimidation toward others if they perceive them as a threat, or undertake inappropriate violent, antisocial or sexual display behaviour as a further consequence. Again, these individuals may do so because they are persistently viewed as "outsiders" and subjected to legalised discrimination on the basis of gender identity. At present, even (religious) emergency accomodation providers can discriminate against them. To deal adequately with any problem, there need to be properly funded and accessible trans-inclusive and trans-specific social services, and there also needs to be gender identity-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation enacted at the levels of local and central government so that whakawahine and fa'afafine don't undertake street survival sex because they have no other options. Furthermore, he Auckland City Council needs to lift the prior Manukau City Council anti-escort ban on use of rented council accomodation and open toilets for sex workers and others after midnight. Of course, the Auckland City Council won't do that, because it has a highly simplistic view of the alleged problem. To them, the residents and business owners are "virtuous" and aggrieved parties, and some of them have never engaged in vigilante intimidation, harrassment, standover tactics, obstruction of public thoroughfares and use of offensive language or behaviour against the street sex workers. This is false, as Joanna Wane and Seven Sharp more recently noted in their more balanced accounts of the Manukau street sex work debate. Alison Mau is particularly to be commended for her perceptive comments about the moral panic against street sex work in Auckland City. Vigilantism is one form of NIMBY activity. It involves individuals or ad hoc organised groups who take active steps to police "their" territory through engaging in borderline or illegitimate means, such as obstruction of public thoroughfares, attempted intimidation and harrassment of street sex workers. Problem is, vigilantes may end up breaking the law themselves, instead of letting legitimate law enforcement agencies undertake any sanctions against legitimate and illegal public nuisance behaviour. They may also undertake activity to conceal or divert attention from their own antisocial or illegal activities in other areas. What role does Family First play in the proceedings? Based on Marcia Neave's historical account of Sydney and New South Wales anti-sexworker 'resident groups' that turned out to be front groups for Fred Nile and other Christian Right activists, one cannot help but wonder if some militant fundamentalist pressure groups are engaging in entryism in this context, setting up pseudo-resident front groups or spinning supposedly neutral business owner accounts to shield any fundamentalist religious reasons for their anti-sexworker activities. As well as Family First, one is also entitled to ask which churches the Auckland City Council consulted in drawing up its pro-bill booklet. Certainly, the suspiciously high number of conservative Christian submissions in favour of the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill before the Local Government and Environmental Select Committee, which included many pro forma statements of support, lead one to form such a conclusion. (I should note that other forms of NIMBYism can be equally destructive. For example, a proposed residential facility for troubled and behaviourally disturbed adolescents was forced to abandon its plans when NIMBY elements created a moral panic about alleged risk to children.) I also have some words for certain 'feminist' councillors and council officials in this debate. When these 'radical feminists' opposed decriminalisation of sex work back in 2001-2003, they frequently pointed to Sweden's prohibitionist "Sexual Purchase Act" 1999 as a moral exemplar, because it criminalised clients of sex workers as well as sex workers themselves. Notably, the Auckland City Council is targeting sex workers and not their clients in this bill, which raises some troubling questions about class, ethnicity and gender identity in this debate. In other words, they're not following the Swedish model at all. Not that this model works all that well, according to Swedish and other European feminist critics of that legislation like Laura Agustin, Petra Ostergren and Suzanne Dodillet- according to statistical evidence from Sweden, it seems to be assymetrically enforced. Predictably, street sex workers get treated more punitively by law enforcement authorities within Sweden than their male clients, which is a familiar story. Much the same happened in New South Wales after the passage of the Summary Offences Act 1988 over there, as I've recounted in an earlier article. Notably, when the Auckland Council prepared its abyssmal, transphobic attack on South Auckland street sex workers last year back in May 2012, they concluded that the "feminist" prohibitionist "Sexual Purchase Act" 1999 "solution" was unenforceable. In other words, female sex workers, whether transsexual or cisgender, will be exposed to the brunt of this legislation. What we have here are middle-class, cisgender and pakeha feminists engaged in policing the activity of 'other' women, without any care for risks from sexual violence and homicide which will result if street sex work is effectively recriminalised. I never thought I'd use this historic feminist antiviolence phrase against these conservative 'radical' feminists, but which part of "no woman ever deserves to be raped, murdered, battered or mutilated" don't they understand? There are other ethical questions about aligning oneself with the Christian Right. One, it is a matter of historical record that the Society for Protection of Community Standards crusaded against making spousal rape in 1982 (although fortunately, they failed). Two, there's also the matter of conservative Catholic pedophile child rape...and Graham Capill. Three, these feminists might want to consider the persistent dykebaiting of women within the family violence prevention and incest survivors movements during the eighties. Is that why we almost never hear criticisms of violence against women and child sexual abuse within conservative religious communities from this quarter (barring a recent book from Anglo-Australian radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys, it should be noted)? Moral panics, sensationalist media coverage, disregard for the health and safety of transgender and other street sex workers...again, this bill needs to be defeated. Contact your local MP and express your concern about the points that I've raised in these articles.
Recommended: Joanna Wane: "Not in Our Street" North and South 301: April 2011: 64-71. "Life of A Prostitute" Seven Sharp: 08.04.2013: http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/life-prostitute-video-5399101 "Georgina Beyer on street prostitution :Seven Sharp: 08.04.2013: http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/georgina-beyer-calls-law-changes-video-5399105 Summary Offences Act 1981: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1981/0113/latest/DLM53348.html Marcia Neave: "Prostitution Laws in Australia- Past History and Current Trends" (p67-100) in Roberta Perkins, Garrett Prestage, Rachel Sharp and Frances Lovejoy (eds) Sex Work and Sex Workers in Australia: Sydney: University of New South Wales Press: 1995. Regulation of Prostitution in Public Places Bill 2006 (Second Reading): http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/9/3/f/48HansD_20061011_00001041-Manukau-City-Control-of-Street-Prostitution.htm Petra Ostergren: "Sexworkers Critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy": http://www.petraostergren.com/pages.aspx?r_id=40716 Laura Agustin: "Behind the Happy Face of the Swedish Anti-Prostitution Policy" http://www.lauraagustin.com/behind-the-happy-face-of-the-swedish-anti-prostitution-law Suzanne Dodillet and Petra Ostergren: "The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effects" (2011): http://www.petraostgren.com/upl/files/54259.pdf NIMBY Experts: http://www.nimbyexperts.com/whats-nimbyism.html Clifton Bryant (ed) The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behaviour: London: Routledge: 2011.Not Recommended: Auckland City Council: The Street Prostitution Industry in Southern Auckland Communities (May 2012): http://imag.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1207/FNL_street_sex_trade_document.pdf Challenge Weekly: http://www.challengeweekly.co.nz/ Family First: http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/ http://www.bobmccoskrie.com/ Craig Young - 22nd May 2013