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Outrage At Lowering Legal Prostitution Age

31 August 2001

The Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc. is outraged that there has been a call from the NZ Aids Foundation for the lowering of the proposed legal age for prostitution, set at 18 under the proposed Prostitution Reform Bill, to 16. Executive Director of the Foundation, Mr Kevin Hague, in an oral submission on the Bill presented to the Justice and Electoral Committee (see Dominion 30/8), argued passionately that it should be lowered to 16 to make it “consistent with the age of consent for sexual behaviour” [sic]. (He meant of course to say the age of “sexual consent”). With prostitution redefined under the Bill as part of the “service industry,” why shouldn’t those who have reached the age of consent be able to ply their ‘trade’ from the footpaths of our cities or procure others into the ‘industry’?

The Society, which in its own submission to the select committee has strongly opposed the Bill to decriminalise prostitution, involving the repeal of all laws against soliciting, pimping, making a living off the earnings of prostitution and procuring for prostitution; considers the Foundation’s position socially irresponsible and injurious to the public good. It is angry that an organisation, largely funded by tax-payers and one of the key supporters of the Bill, should be leading the charge for a lowering of the proposed legal age, when all the research on the ‘industry’ indicates that it is damaging to the sexual health, physical, psychological, emotional well-being of young people, particularly young girls. The NZ Aids Foundation’s submission was supported by the Family Planning Association.

The Society points out that Article 34 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which NZ ratified in 1993, states that NZ must “undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse” and “take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent … the exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices.” Part I, article 1 of the Convention defines a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years”. Furthermore, NZ is signatory to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) which requires our government to “take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic of women and exploitation of prostitution of women” (Article 6).

Mr Gordon Dempsey the Society’s president says that “rather than assisting to suppress all forms of sexual exploitation of women and children, as required by international law, the Bill will issue in a season of open slather leading to a growth boom in an ‘industry’.” According to the Society’s spokesperson, David Lane, “the NZ Aids Foundation has over-reached itself in its demands for our government to consider making prostitution legal for 16 year olds and thereby revealed the ethical bankruptcy of the Foundation’s ‘mission’ to effect ‘reform’. The indisputable fact based on extensive research world-wide, is that prostitution is injurious and detrimental to the physical, mental, psychological and spiritual well-being of the vast majority of women involved in the ‘industry’.” (see refs. SPCS submission).

In a seven page published critique of the Bill by Mr Lane, on behalf of the Society, sent this week to every member of Parliament, the unfolding disaster of child prostitution in Australia is reported on. Figures as identified by ECPAT (the international body combating prostitution and trafficking) indicate that 3,733 children are currently engaged in commercial sexual activities in Australia. The highest number of reported cases come from Victoria, followed by NSW, where prostitution has been legalised and decriminalised, respectively. The majority of these cases involve young persons aged 16 to 17 years, but a disturbing finding was the number of 10 to 12 year olds and some under the age of 10.1

The Society argues that many of our politicians, soon to vote on the Bill, will need to carefully examine their consciences and ask the questions: Do I want my vote to pave the way for 16 year olds to be able to legally prostitute themselves in public places, be sex ‘slaves’ to pimps and make a living by managing brothels? Do I want my vote to remove all regulations and control measures (as proposed in the Bill by the repeal of the Massage Parlours Act 1978) relating to who can manage and operate brothels? Do I want my school age children examining future job prospects and careers believing that prostitution is a legitimate and legal part of the “service industry”? Do I want my daughter, friend’s daughter, niece or close relative, to be made an easier target for madams and pimps seeking new younger “sex workers”?


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