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Prostitutes, Pimps and City Council Policies

Prostitutes, Pimps and City Council Policies

The Society (SPCS) has written this week to the mayors of 20 cities and asked them to clarify their Council’s intended policies and by-laws to control the inevitable rise in street soliciting by prostitutes (including children) and the associated activities of pimps, should the Prostitution Reform Bill be enacted into NZ law. (The Bill is scheduled to be reported back to Parliament from the Justice and Electoral Select Committee by 29 November 2002). This increase in prostitution has occurred in New South Wales where the ‘industry’ was decriminalised in 1995, as well as in every country where it has been either decriminalised or legalised. SPCS presented evidence for this last week to the select committee examining the Bill.

A series of 26 questions (see letter below) have been put to mayors by SPCS in an effort to gauge to what extent Council’s have addressed the issues they could soon have to face. SPCS has also sent copies of the Wellington City Council’s detailed seven-page “Street Performance Policy” (1 August 2001) to each mayor so that council members will understand that if the Bill is approved by the House in a conscience vote and enacted into law, Councils will have to put in place detailed policies and by-laws to control an increase in street prostitution, pimping and the numbers and location of brothels. In a decriminalised ‘industry’ the police will have no role to play in relation to “prostitution-related offences”- soliciting, pimping, living off the earnings of prostitution and brothel-keeping. All laws relating to these activities could soon be repealed. However, strong opposition to the Bill is growing.

The Society has highlighted to the select committee the fact that prostitution is injurious to the public good and should be suppressed, not allowed to flourish in a decriminalised environment. It favours a law change targeting the purchaser of “sexual services” (the client), as enacted in Sweden in 1999, as well as much tougher laws enacted and enforced targeting those who exploit prostitutes (pimps and brothel owners). However, it argues that the role of the State, first and foremost, should be to assist prostitutes (primarily women and children) to exit the ‘industry’ and find needful counselling and support, employment training and real work. Soliciting by prostitutes should remain an offence but a fine should only be waived if the offender agrees to complete treatment to assist them to exit prostitution. Only serious repeat offenders should be fined and where appropriate subject to compulsory treatment where they pose a danger to themselves and injury to the public good.

Society President Rev. Gordon Dempsey says: “A compassionate proactive intervention is needed by skilled and experienced service providers to assist prostitutes to truly reform, funded by Government (directly or indirectly), along with laws that treat the exploiters of women and children as serious criminals. This approach is in line with article 34 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which the New Zealand Government ratified in 1993 and Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1980) The latter states:

‘States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women’.

Dempsey says: “Our obligation is to suppress the potential for trafficking and exploitation. Both have increased dramatically in countries where the laws against prostitution have been liberalised.”

The Society argues that since Councils have seen fit to enact detailed policies and by-laws in order to try and control activities like street-busking, an activity that generally serves the “public good”; then clearly considerable effort will have to go into ‘policing’ a practice (prostitution) that has been universally recognised as being injurious to the “public good”. Councils will have to deal with a problem that the SPCS has publicly called a “cancer” attacking the very heart of the family; society and human relationships built on fidelity and trust (marriage).

Dempsey says: “There is nothing in the Bill that will assist women and children to exit prostitution by way of Government or community-based programmes. This is because the Bill’s architects, including Tim Barnett MP and the NZ Prostitute’s Collective, want prostitution to be treated like any other service industry such as child minding, home-help and pizza delivery services. The Society has made detailed submissions explaining why it can never be treated as just another part of the service industry, due to its inherently exploitative nature.

“Where once the term prostitution reform meant assisting victims to exit the evil practices of the ‘trade’, proponents of the Bill however see it (reform) in different terms. For them “reform” means the empowering of “sex workers” (no longer called prostitutes) and their exploitative minders (no longer called pimps) so they can all thrive in a destigmatised and attractive environment to carry on their practices unhindered by any laws seeking to control or suppress it. Proponents of the Bill have taken no account of the fact that the victims of prostitution, who have been subjugated by their clients and forced to perform degrading, dehumanising and demeaning sexual acts, need to be assisted to reform, as well as the clients who exploit the ‘service providers’.

“The implications of the Bill,” Dempsey says, “ need to be carefully considered before any MP can honorably and in good conscience vote on it. SPCS calls on all MPS to consider the enormous damage and harm that will be inflicted on women and children, families and human relationships as a result of any growth in prostitution. This Bill if passed, is a sure recipe for social disaster in this country.”

Copy of letter sent to Wellington City Mayor.

Ms Kerry Prendergast Mayor of Wellington Wellington City Council P.O. Box 2199, Wellington

30 September 2001

Dear Ms Prendergast

… the executive committee of the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards Inc. (SPCS) [is] seeking information concerning the Wellington City Council’s intended policies/bylaws as they relate to street soliciting by male and female prostitutes. We assume that the Council (WCC) must have given careful consideration to its intended policies/bylaws if soliciting by prostitutes (“sex workers”) is decriminalised as proposed under the Prostitution Reform Bill which is to be reported back to Parliament by 29 November 2002 from the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

As you will be aware at present soliciting and pimping are against the law – section 26 of the Summary Offences Act 1981:

“Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 who, in any public place, offers his or her body, or any other person’s body, for the purpose of prostitution”.

We have carefully examined the WCC’s street performance policy (referred to henceforth as “SPP”, dated 1 August 2001) and note that many of the issues dealt with in it will be relevant once soliciting is decriminalised. We are seeking answers to the following questions. (Note; all questions assume the Bill, which we oppose, is adopted into law).

Does the WCC have in mind or given any consideration to adopting and implementing any policies concerning soliciting by prostitutes that might assist in furthering the Council’s desired outcomes including safety, developing potential, quality of life? (cf. Council outcomes 2.1, 2.2, & 3.5).

Does the Council consider there is a need for implementing such policies and how would they relate to the following WCC objectives: (a) To encourage activities that contribute colour and life to the City (b) To promote safety in the central City by increasing the number of people and amount of activity on the streets. (c) To minimise conflicts between performers [in this case prostitutes competing for business] and other users of the city (c.f. SPP objectives 1, 4 & 5)?

Which public places (if any) within the city will the WCC be encouraging (if at all) soliciting to take place in, in order to fulfil its objectives noted above?

How do any such location stipulations specifically relate to these objectives? (For example, will by laws be implemented confining soliciting to designated well-lit streets where there is a known regular police presence – to “promote safety” [2b] concerns?).

Which (if any) public places within the city will the WCC put strictly off-limit to soliciting and what is the rationale for such prohibitions and censorship of (decriminalised-‘legal’) public exhibitionism?

In what way does the Council believe soliciting will make “a valuable contribution to perceptions of night-time vibrancy and safety in Wellington’s inner city”? (c.f. SPP principle 3).

Given that the WCC has made it mandatory for all buskers to be licensed, will it be setting in place similar laws to apply to prostitutes who solicit in public places?

If so what conditions will apply (c.f. SPP fees, duration of license, issued to groups/collectives and transferable vs non-transferable)?

Given that all street buskers, including those who solicit for public money, are required by law to make available to Council officers or any member of the public their permits during performances, will similar laws apply to prostitutes who solicit in public places? If not, why not?

Will prostitutes who solicit in public places be required by the WCC to carry proof of identity together with their permits, in the same manner that the law requires “special street performers” to do so? (see SPP section 5).

Given that special street performers are required to carry current permits because of the inherent danger involved in their activities (involving dangerous materials”), will the Council similarly categorise soliciting prostitutes based on the inherent danger involved in their activities – i.e. the potential for transmission of contagious STDs that pose a threat to public health?

Will the current Hawkers and Peddlers Bylaws apply to prostitutes soliciting in public places? If not, why not?

Will such laws be modified in any way to accommodate the “selling of sex” in public places by prostitutes?

How will the WCC safeguard the rights of school children to be protected from exposure to transactions involving soliciting prostitutes and clients and those involving overt physical activities (involving the seeking of “sexual relief”) in areas close to schools or on routes to children’s homes?

How will the WCC notify the public of any zoning regulations by-laws (if any) restricting soliciting to certain designated areas of the city?

How will the WCC enforce adherence to these zoning laws and what penalties (if any) will be imposed for infringements?

How will the WCC safeguard the rights of families with young children to be protected from exposure to transactions involving soliciting and activities involving prostitutes and clients seeking “sexual relief” in public places?

Will the WCC impose controls on the number of soliciting prostitutes who can operate within a given area (i.e. distribution/density factors)?

If so, how and by what means will any laws imposed be enforced?

What laws will the WCC establish (if any) to control the setting up of brothels in residential areas of Wellington city?

What adjustments to the Resource Management Act have Council officers considered that will need to be made (if any) to control the inevitable growth in brothels established in Wellington residential areas (as has occurred in NSW following decriminalisation)?

If there is a documented growth in the transmission of STDs following the decriminalisation of soliciting, will the WCC take any responsibility for resolving this potential health crisis given that public places are being sanctioned by the WCC for the proliferation of this inherently dangerous activity?

What consideration (if any) has the WCC given to the impact of decriminalising soliciting on its health services?

Has the WCC done any research into the catastrophic impact of the decriminalising of prostitution in NSW and its impact on local government services? If not why not?

Will Wellington City ratepayers be required to fund the policing and licensing of the activities of street prostitutes in line with any intended WCC policy?

What regulations does the WCC intend to bring in to curb sexually explicit exhibitionism and advertising associated with street prostitution?

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