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Bishops & Church Leaders Letter On Prostitution

Open Letter to all Members of the New Zealand Parliament from New Zealand Church Leaders

P O Box 37 148
20 June 2003

Dear Member of Parliament

Prostitution Reform Bill

We write to express our conviction that the Prostitution Reform Bill does not serve the best interests of prostitutes or New Zealand society. We would respectfully recommend that it not be supported.

Having studied background documents, and the Bill itself as amended at second reading, we base our conviction on these considerations :

1. We fully support any measure to reduce exploitation of or risk to prostitutes, but are not convinced the Bill offers much in this regard. Many prostitutes are young and vulnerable and hence easily open to exploitation by powerful and unscrupulous brothel owners. Even with legal employment provisions available there will be many ways in which such protections can be circumvented.

2. While to a small degree exploitation of prostitutes may be reduced under the new Bill, a much wider form of exploitation is opened up. The normalising of prostitution sends a message that the commercial selling of one’s body is an acceptable function in society, and will draw many other young and vulnerable people into the business.

3. We fully support measures to improve the health of prostitutes, such as through the provision of safe sex material, but such material is already readily available. Decriminalising brothels will not greatly assist this objective.

4. By legalising brothels the way is opened for commercial operators freely to enter the field with no other motivation than the making of money. The victims will be the prostitutes and the social and moral fabric of society. Associated activities of drugs and the trafficking of women are likely to increase.

5. Decriminalising brothels elevates prostitution to a normal feature of society. As when controls on any activity are relaxed there is bound to be an increase in such activity. We recognise that prostitution is a reality in society, but do not accept that it is a desirable reality.

Amendments agreed to at the second reading of the Bill which place constraints on the operation of brothels (eg advertising, restrictions on location, importing of prostitutes from overseas), do not remove our basic concerns.

Our hope is that the Bill will not proceed, and that wider consideration will be given to alternative approaches. There has, for example, been much debate about the Swedish approach which is based on a strong philosophical objection to the very activity of prostitution as being exploitative of women and men. It has led to a reduction in prostitution, and has been accompanied by Government programmes to assist people out of prostitution and associated drug addiction. Such an approach would seem worthy of consideration in New Zealand.

Anglican Bishops
The Rt Rev John Paterson, Anglican Presiding Bishop/Primate and Bishop of Auckland
The Rt Rev Whakahuihui Vercoe, Pihopa o Aotearoa
The Rt Rev Dr Penny Jamieson, Bishop of Dunedin
The Rt Rev Derek Eaton, Bishop of Nelson
The Rt Rev John Gray, Pihopa ki te Waipounamu
The Rt Rev Dr Tom Brown, Bishop of Wellington
The Rt Rev Muru Walters, Pihopa ki te Upoko o te Ika
The Rt Rev Brown Turei, Pihopa ki te Tai Rawhiti
The Rt Rev David Moxon, Bishop of Waikato
The Rt Rev Philip Richardson, Bishop in Taranaki
The Rt Rev Te Kitohi Pikaahu, Pihopa ki te Tai Tokerau
The Rt Rev Richard Randerson, Assistant Bishop of Auckland

Catholic Church
His Eminence Thomas, Cardinal Williams, Archbishop of Wellington
Most Reverend Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland
Most Reverend Robin Leamy SM, Assistant Bishop in Auckland
Most Reverend Denis Browne, Bishop of Hamilton
Most Reverend Takuira Max Mariu SM, Assistant Bishop of Hamilton
Most Reverend Peter Cullinane, Bishop of Palmerston North
Most Reverend Owen Dolan, Coadjutor Bishop of Palmerston North
Most Reverend John Dew, Assistant Bishop of Wellington
Most Reverend John Cunneen, Bishop of Christchurch
Rev Monsignor Vincent Walker, Vicar General, Dunedin

The Rt Rev Michael Thawley, Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Jane Pritchard, Moderator, Auckland Presbytery
The Rev Douglas Lendrum, St David’s Church, Auckland

The Rev David Pratt, District Superintendent, Auckland

Salvation Army
Campbell Roberts, Divisional Commander, Canterbury North West
Ross Gower, Divisional Commander, Auckland

Brian Winslade, National Leader, Baptist Churches of New Zealand

Anglican Deans of Cathedrals
The Very Rev David Cappel Rice, Dean of Dunedin
The Very Rev Charles Tyrrell, Dean of Nelson
The Very Rev Dr Douglas Sparks, Dean of Wellington

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