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Under-aged prostitution - police inaction

26 January 2006

Under-aged prostitution - police inaction against sexual exploiters criticised

Promises by politicians, that the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 would result in hefty measures taken against sexual exploiters of the under-aged, have since proved meaningless, says Stop Demand Foundation. Under the law, those who buy sex from persons under the age of 18 years can face prison terms of up to seven years.

Stop Demand’s comments follow a reported police swoop on Christchurch streets where children as young as 12 years were picked up.

Stop Demand’s spokesperson Denise Ritchie says, “In parts of South Auckland and Christchurch men are committing commercial sexual offences against minors on a nightly basis with little risk of prosecution.”

“Recent police initiatives to target minors and remove them from the streets lack strategic merit”, says Ritchie. “A more effective strategy must be to target the exploiters. Overseas studies show that prostitute-users’ fears of a spouse or partner finding out or public exposure through a Court case are the two most effective measures to halt anyone buying the services of a prostitute - fears that one would expect to be significantly increased when the person bought is under-aged.”

Stop Demand, which is part of a multi-agency group in South Auckland on Under-aged Prostitution, says the response from many in the group, especially the Police, has been very disappointing. “Police input has been far from satisfactory. Police responses have ranged from an incredulous ‘but these youngsters are consenting’, to “it is very difficult to get evidence’”, says Ritchie. “Frequent references to the buyers as ‘clients’ or ‘customers’ rather than ‘exploiters’ or ‘criminals’ also reflects a minimisation of offending.”

Stop Demand believes the Police overstate evidential difficulties. “How difficult is it, when generally the pick-ups occur in a public street, the exploiters drive only a short distance to another public spot, and are likely to be found in a state of semi-undress with a young person of different ethnicity? To suggest that this is a crime with huge evidential obstacles is not accepted,” says Ritchie.

“Strategically, I am sure that the quickest way to see a sharp decrease in the buying of sex from the under-aged would be for South Auckland and Christchurch police to put some resources into a couple of prosecutions, photographs of the sexual exploiters splashed across newspapers and television screens, and prison sentences imposed on the exploiters. The most effective way to stop under-aged prostitution is to tackle, penalise and ultimately stop demand,” says Ritchie.


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