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Don’t Wreck Queenstown Lakes District, Women’s Rights Party Urges

The Queenstown Lakes District Council is currently consulting on a draft by-law that would relax certain requirements and expand the area where sex trade activities can occur.

In its submission to the Council, the Women’s Rights Party opposed the draft by-law changes and called on the Council to support the women of Queenstown and Wanaka with liveable wages, affordable housing, and effective exit services so women are not forced into prostitution to survive economically in the district.

Women’s Rights Party Co-Leader Jill Ovens says she is a frequent visitor to both Queenstown and Wanaka with family members who live and work in both cities.

“The district is idyllic, but it has very real economic issues with low wages and unaffordable housing. I urge the Council to focus on these issues, rather than destroying the lake fronts by creating larger ‘red light’ districts,” she says.

In its submission, the Women’s Rights Party noted that the language in the reporting of the Queenstown by-law debate reinforced the normalisation of prostitution by describing the sex trade as being "just like any other small business".

Councillor Lyal Cocks argued that the current by-law should be revoked and the Council should adopt a management approach through the District Plan as “no other small business is treated in this way”.

Health NZ Te Whatu Ora and the Aotearoa Sex Workers Collective were quoted as saying that having any restriction on their activities makes women vulnerable as they are acting outside the law. This is a circular argument, Ms Ovens says.

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“The women are vulnerable because prostitution is by its very nature exploitation of women. Women in the sex trade are seen by buyers as commodities to be bought and by brothel owners and pimps to be sold,” she says.

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 provided for brothel inspections to detect instances of violence, trafficking, rape of those under 18, or other illegal activities.

“Sadly women prostitution survivors report that regular inspections are not happening, and they have testified that decriminalisation has increased the buyers’ sense of entitlement, and has reduced women’s ability to refuse a buyer’s demands,” the Women’s Rights Party said in its submission.

“This is reinforced by the widespread use of pornography that sends a message that exploitation of women, including so-called "rough sex", is acceptable when clearly it is not. The increased violence in pornography has made the sex trade even more dangerous for the women involved.”

The Women’s Rights Party noted that Queenstown Lakes is one of only seven Councils with by-laws restricting the sex trade as provided for in the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.

“Queenstown and Wanaka are important international and domestic destinations with unique natural environments that are key to their attraction. The last thing we need is to turn them into sex trade destinations,” the Party submitted.

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