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Antisoliciting Bill, Take Three?

Fri 27 Jan 2012 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Just when you thought that the former Manukau City Council's attempts to roll back the clock against Papetoetoe street sex workers were finally over, there is news of another offensive planned. However, now both the Auckland and Christchurch City Councils are trying to reintroduce an anti-soliciting bill that has failed twice before. In Auckland, Papatoetoe residents have repeatedly attacked the provisions of the Prostitution Law Reform Act that decriminalised street sex work, complaining of seeing them perform their services in broad daylight, of having to clean up excrement, urine and used condoms and deal with violence, inebriation and disorder issues.Unfortunately, Otara-Papatoetoe local board chairman John McCracken likes what has been happening down in Christchurch, where fourteen arrests occurred for public nuisance offences. He defined these public nuisance arrests as local issues and noted that they weren't apparently solely restricted to his local body council ward. Although introduced by retired former Manukau Labour MP George Hawkins, who acknowledged that it probably didn't have the numbers to pass its second reading last September, the Manukau City Council's Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places Bill has not been withdrawn. The private members bill is still before a select committee and submissions close at the end of February, so the board is trying to drum up conservative local body support to insure that the bill applies beyond the confines of Auckland. This would effectively repeal the provisions of the Prostitution Law Reform Act that decriminalised soliciting in 2003. He has made common cause with Christchurch City Council's anti-soliciting stance: "Christchurch City Council has been asking for somebody to visit to explain Papatoetoe's position to explain the problems they have with street sex, compare the issues that they're each finding and to talk about the amendments and how they can help both communities,” McCracken said in The councils may make a joint submission to the select committee. McCracken states that the councils don't want a wholesale reversal of the Prostitution Law Reform Act, only something similar to red light zones in some overseas jurisdictions, similar to alcohol free zones. McCracken denies that this is an orchestrated religious social conservative vendetta, although it should be noted that the Christian Right pressure group Family First supports his initiative.They are trying to find an MP to sponsor this latest anti-sexworker initiative. One suspects that Family First knows full well that fake Christian Right-sponsored 'community groups' were responsible for anti-soliciting prohibitions reintroduced in New South Wales in the late eighties, which did not work and which had the strong support of Fred Niles' Christian Democratic Party. These anti-soliciting bills do nothing but drive street sex workers into unsafe situations and place their lives and safety at risk. The Prostitutes' Collective and supporters oppose the bill, saying that marginalised street sex workers, and that any problems can be dealt with through the Summary Offences Act 1981 and other public nuisance legislation without any need to recriminalise street soliciting. As I have said before in this column, LGBT Aucklanders and others should oppose this injurious and retrograde bill. Papatoetoe's young street sex workers are fa'afafine and whakawahine who cannot obtain emergency housing or access to social services due to their emergent and ongoing gender identity concerns. Moreover, until the Human Rights Act encompasses gender identity, it is still theoretically legal for these vulnerable young transwomen to face discrimination and exclusion when trying to insure their personal safety, accomodation needs, access to nutritious food and other life requirements. We need to stop excluding them and provide them with meaningful and safe accomodation options, access to employment alternatives and educational options. This is not happening at present. There needs to be urgent attention paid to this issue and it needs to take priority as our leading legislative reform concern. As New South Wales' earlier experience showed, anti-soliciting backlash laws solve nothing. If there are behavioural problems, it may well be the case that these young transwomen are 'acting out' to get attention and possible access to social services- although, as the Human Rights Commission has noted in their report Human Rights and Prisons, rehabilitation services for ciswomen and transwomen alike are rarer than those geared toward men, given that the majority of prisoners are male. I would argue that it is the Auckland and New Zealand/Aotearoa LGBT community that should be providing these services, ideally staffed by accountable and reputable transgender social service professionals who have awareness of these young transwomen's needs. Moreover, it is long since past time that New Zealand directly included gender identity within its antidiscrimination laws. We should make it clear to Labour and the Greens that trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws are as much of a core LGBT rights concern as same-sex marriage and inclusive adoption reform. While we're at it, why haven't LGBT community organisations and our allies protested outside the council facilities at the sheer transphobic injustice of this legislation? Recommended: Human Rights and Prisons: Joanna Wane: "Not on the Street Where We Live"North and South 301: April 2011: 64-71. Cities team up to fight prostitution” 19.01.2012: Craig Young - 27th January 2012    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 27th January 2012 - 1:41pm

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