Thursday, September 09, 2010

Recriminalising prostitution

Last night, Parliament voted 82 - 36 to send the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill to select committee. The bill empowers the Manukau City Council to pass bylaws prohibiting street prostitution in specified areas. The net result will be to recriminalise prostitution in Manukau

This is clearly contrary to the intent of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. That Act decriminalised prostitution, both on liberal grounds and because criminalisation allowed the victimisation and exploitation of prostitutes. If they went to the police, they'd be fined, or pressured into serving as informants in drug-cases on pain of being fined, or worse. The result was that they didn't, leaving them outside the protection of the law.

The new bill will effectively recreate that situation in Manukau. Except that it will be worse, because the fine for soliciting in a "specified place" (which will likely mean any major street) is ten times larger than it was before decriminalisation. The result: prostitutes will be effectively excluded from legal protection, free to be victimised, unpeople - again.

This is an appalling bill, and I am appalled that so many MPs - including many who should know better - voted for it. What's worse is that those who spoke in support tried to spin this as a measure to protect prostitutes. Bullshit. Placing people outside the law does not protect them - it just allows them to be abused with impunity. Those who voted for this bill should be feeling deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves right now.