Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


Local fund raising event hits world headlines

During my rounds of various blog sites this evening I stumbled across a site in the UK that had an article about a small business in a small NZ township that was opening its doors to the public for one day in order to raise funds for a local charity. This has raised the ire of a conservative Christian group. Unfortunately they are angry for the wrong reason, and I’ll come to that shortly.

Until the late 1970s New Zealand was probably the most egalitarian society on earth. With a comprehensive social welfare system and full employment poverty was almost unknown. Now we are in the unenviable position of having that fastest growing divide between rich and poor in the OECD.

The fund raising event is for a charity that provides meals to school children whose families are unable to provide the necessary nourishment. That is what the Christian group Family First should be angry about. A society that denies disadvantaged families through no fault of their own the dignity of adequate meals for their children is something that should not be seen as acceptable in a modern liberal society.

But is Family First concerned about the rise in the number of families living below the poverty line in the face of increasing national wealth? Apparently not.

So what has upset Family First?  It appears that they don’t like the nature of the business that is opening its doors for the day. It seems they would prefer children go hungry rather than allowing the public to learn how a seldom discussed business is run.

Admittedly, the type of business involved can be exploitative and is illegal in most parts of the world. Neither are are true here. It’s a legitimate business and can be found in almost every suburb in the country.

The business is a brothel and this is why Family First are so upset. But as they are firmly convinced that what goes on in private between consenting adults should be regulated and mostly banned, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by their reaction. No doubt they are firmly convinced that the plight of the disadvantaged is justly deserved punishment from God for undisclosed sins.

What I find fascinating is the number of articles this whole affair has raised in overseas publications, yet has received very little here. An extensive search of Google failed to find any NZ sources but dozens in overseas media including The Guardian and the Daily Mail. The only NZ publication I can find is the original article in the Taranaki Daily News.

While I’m no supporter of prostitution, it’s probably the oldest profession next to midwifery and unlikely to disappear any time soon. For that  reason it’s better that it’s out in the open where employment laws can make it safe for all concerned. The alternatives leaves all those involved in the industry open to exploitation and control by the criminal world.

As far as I am concerned, the greater of the two “evils” is poverty, not prostitution.


The oldest profession: what’s its status?

Although midwifery is probably an older profession, everyone knows what is being referred to when mentioning the “world’s oldest profession“, and that’s prostitution. So how is prostitution faring these days? It really depends on where you look.

In most parts of the world prostitution is illegal. Penalties range from fines to life imprisonment. Again, depending where you are, the penalties will apply either to the seller, the purchaser, or both. However, the illegality of prostitution in these counties has had little, if any, effect in stopping the practice. The most noticeable effect is that prostitution is controlled by the criminal world.

Some other countries have taken another approach and while not criminalising prostitution itself, criminalise activities around prostitution, such as soliciting, running a brothel and living of the earnings of a prostitute. In these countries too, organised crime are big players in the sex industry.

A few, a very few, have decriminalised prostitution. New Zealand has probably the most liberal prostitution laws of any country. These were liberalised in 2003 and although some religious groups were predicting our streets would become awash with sex, debauchery and organised crime, little has changed except sex workers are protected by our employment laws.

There has not be a rise in the number of sex workers. In fact there may have been a small decline as it is now much easier to leave the industry. And because prostitution is not criminalized, there is little room for the criminal underworld to manoeuvre.

The Prostitutes Collective have a web page summarising the current law, and there is an interesting,  2007 Report on The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety Practices of Sex Workers (213 page PDF document) carried out by the University of Otago in 2007, if you’d like dig a little deeper.

While I’m not condoning prostitution in any way, from the evidence I have seen, I believe decriminalisation is the least harmful method of dealing with it. What’s your view?