As readers may be aware New Zealand decriminalised prostitution in 2003. At the moment a bill has been introduced that would allow a single local government council too designate areas where both buying and selling sex on the street was criminalised.
Sandra Coney is a very prominent New Zealand feminist, who edited the feminist magazine Broadsheet for years. She is now a city councillor.
Dear Sandra Coney
I am aware of the debt of gratitude that I owe you. I have read every issue of Broadsheet you edited. Your columns in the Sunday Times were one of my early exposures for feminism. I know that so many of the parts of my life that I hold most dear to me were only possible because the movement you were part of changed the world.
But all this compels me to speak, rather than compelling me to stay silent. This week you used your vote on the Auckland City Councillor to support the re-criminalising of outdoor sex-workers in Manakau.
That is not a feminist action.
From memory (I read your column in the Sunday Star Times during the prostitution law reform debate) you favour ‘The Swedish Model’ decriminalisation of selling sex and the criminalisation of buying sex. I do not. But I do recognise that it is a feminist position, taken as a result of feminist analysis. However, I cannot take those who promote it seriously as feminists unless they are more passionate about decriminalising sex-workers than they are about criminalising Johns.
Instead you supported legislation that criminalises buying and selling sex – but only for poor people. Only those who live in South Auckland (possibly all of Auckland by the time the bill is done) and can’t afford to work indoors need to worry about this legislation.
This bill will impoverish women who get caught, tie them to the stress of the court system, and put them in the power of the New Zealand police.
And that should be enough, for any feminist in this country. We know the power the police have, how they have used it, and how many within the force take ‘bros before hos’ as a life mantra and cover for their mates. How dare you support giving the police more power over a group of our sisters, for any reason?
The bill hasn’t passed yet, you still have time to change your position. You have time to stand in solidarity with street sex workers , rather than with those trying to punish them.