Reprinted from Not Afraid of Ruins blog.
The new Auckland Supercouncil has voted to support a submission in favour of the Regulation of Prostitution in Specific Places Bill. This law would let Supercouncil pass bylaws banning street workers in specific areas.
Arguments in favour of criminalizing street workers are usually about protecting families, and moral values, and community standards, and ‘won’t somebody think of the children?’
But sometimes these arguments are also about ‘won’t somebody think of the hookers?’ because, according to Sandra Coney, ‘she supported the bill because prostitution was harmful to women and led to violence and murder’.
Let me break this down for you:
Yes, being a street worker probably isn’t an ideal employment situation for most workers. It’s possible that some street workers work on the street because they truly prefer it. But I suspect most sex workers who work on the street are doing it because they don’t have other options, like working at a brothel, or for an escort agency, or hiring a flat to work from. Maybe brothels and agencies won’t hire them because of a drug dependency or maybe because they’re transgendered or maybe they just managed to piss off all the bosses and maybe they can’t afford to put an ad up on nzgirls.com and hire a flat or a hotel room.
The point is that those sex workers who work on the street are usually the ones who are most marginalized, most disadvantaged, most discriminated against and most vulnerable to exploitation. Sandra Coney is right to worry about their safety. But she is living in an alternate universe if she thinks giving the police more power over street workers is going to protect them. Actually, all that’ll happen is that the police will have even more power to exploit and oppress street workers. This law will allow police to arrest anyone they think might be a sex worker. Who do you think police think might be a sex worker? This law isn’t going to prevent sex workers from working on the street. Because it doesn’t actually address any of the reasons some sex workers end up working on the street. All this law will do is make street workers’ lives more difficult and more dangerous.