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Former prostitutes tell MPs law has failed

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A delegation of former prostitutes accompanied by their advocates have appeared before a Select Committee in Parliament calling for a change to prostitution laws, and with a plea from the former prostitutes that decriminalisation has failed them and others still in the industry.

Elizabeth Subritzky from the organisation Freedom from Sexual Exploitation (FFSE) which sponsored the petition presented to Parliament says that the message from the former prostitutes is that it has wrecked their lives, many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, that their troubled upbringings attracted them to prostitution, and that the only solution is to prosecute buyers in order to help prostitutes out of the industry.

"Our government has made legal that which we as a society fail to see as legitimate. Once defined as work, the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) not only encouraged more men to buy sex, but transformed prostitution into an acceptable, even attractive job for young, poor woman in New Zealand," says Mrs Subritzky.

"FFSE is asking the government to:

1) consider a national plan of action to combat street prostitution, and

2) pass a law which makes the purchase of sexual services illegal.

Our motivation is to call for laws that protect the women of our country. Research clearly shows that sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women selling across all sectors of prostitution."

The submission presented to the MPs states that the PRA has simply played into the hands of the pimps and brothel owners and enabled them to gain a façade of respectability while legally preying on the women they control. It also presents evidence that the over-riding purpose of the 2003 Act, of making prostitution safer for the sellers, has failed. Many sellers live on their nerves in circumstances where a substantial proportion of prostitutes each year are subject to assault and threats of violence. A government report also identified that 3% had been raped by a client.

"No other legalised industry comes within a hint of such violence. If they did they would be shut down by OSH," says Mrs Subritzky.

FFSE submits that it is now time for politicians to fix the law. It proposes NZ follows the progressive Nordic model which criminalizes the buyer and decriminalises the seller.

"The Nordic model is not a prudish model. It has been a success in protecting women from sexual exploitation in countries such as Sweden and Iceland."

FFSE also points to a 2011 poll which found that of 1,000 respondents, 66% wanted brothels banned in residential areas.

"Accounts of home brothels (SOOB’s) where men, willing to pay for sex are visiting nearby homes trying to find the brothel, and concerns about noise, traffic, intimidation, and late-night visits are common experiences from having a brothel in a residential street or next to a school," says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

"Street prostitution also continues to plague communities, a fact highlighted by retailers and families in Manurewa being affected by the activities of prostitution, including half-naked prostitutes, street litter including used condoms, propositioning of family members, intimidation, noise and nuisance, and a general reduced sense of safety."

"The decriminalisation of prostitution has been a community disaster harming families, businesses, and the welfare of workers caught in the industry. Cities throughout NZ have been trying to deal with the negative fallout as a result of politicians having passed this law. It is time they now fixed the law."

A book just released in the UK by Maddy Coy of the London Metropolitan University - Prostitution, Harm and Gender Inequality: Theory, Research and Policy - states that prostitution creates an inequality between women and men. The gender inequality arises from women selling their bodies so men can have almost unrestricted access to them. This is a humiliating and degrading relationship between two people. It is a male demand driven industry. This book claims that sexual and physical violence, as well as psychological harm is endemic in women’s experiences of prostitution. This is regardless of whether the setting is indoor or outdoor, legal or illegal.

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