Prostitution Reform Bill

I support this bill and many of the amendments that have been proposed, some of which better protect prostitutes from crime, violence, ill-treatment, and super-exploitation. I do not think that this is a pro-prostitution bill.

Decriminalising prostitution will make it easier for people, including social workers, to talk to prostitutes openly about better life options, because prostitutes will not have to worry about the people they talk to dobbing them into the police. I do not believe that anyone would prefer to be a prostitute. I do not believe that people prefer to have sex with people they do not know or do not like and who treat them with disrespect. But the work of finding alternatives for individual prostitutes is much better done in a decriminalised environment.

As a society we have to deal with why there is a supply of prostitutes. Most prostitutes do this degrading work because of poverty or economic need, often combined with the need to finance a drug habit. I am pretty sure there were not as many prostitutes in New Zealand when I grew up, which was in a climate of full employment and much lower drug dependency.

I agree with Deborah Coddington’s objection to prostitution. In her words: “It reduces the most private and personal exchange to a commercial transaction.” But, unlike ACT members, I think the problem has been made worse by the extension of the market’s commercial transactions into more and more areas of human relations. Everything is up for purchase, including sex, sometimes in the form of prostitution and other times in the form of wealthy men effectively buying their wives. I do not think that super-rich 70-year-olds, like Rupert Murdoch, have attractive young wives just because of their sex appeal.

In this highly commercial society, one unfortunately becomes what one can buy. A rich person collecting valuable art becomes an art connoisseur, even if he or she knows nothing about art. Real human and community values become subverted. They are continually under challenge – for example, as we have seen in this House with the efforts to commercialise the few remaining public holidays when the shops are shut. In summary, prostitution prospers in a New-Right environment, which is another reason for driving back the commercialise-everything agenda.

The other underpinning of prostitution is moral conservatism, which is ironic in view of the United Future party’s opposition to this bill. We have just heard a speech made by Gordon Copeland, in which he tried to differentiate males from females, almost defining women as a separate species. He was trying to define them with some special feminine characteristics. I think it is that attitude, actually, that creates sexism towards women and creates more prostitution.

In terms of his definition and his colleagues’ definition of males and their sexuality, I would like to quote Paul Adams in one of his earlier speeches. He said: “There is a moral code to protect us from ourselves, in our own fleshly desires, which I know can be very, very strong. The sex drive in men is one of the strongest desires we have to fight against.” In my opinion, that is a very negative attitude towards sexuality and the sex drive. It is a very repressive attitude that actually increases the number of males going to prostitutes.

Paul Adams said in his speech that 60 percent of the male clients of prostitutes are married, which may be true. However, the answer is not to lecture men about controlling their sex drive. That Victorian approach produces only the opposite – more prostitution. That puritanical attitude often carries with it a lot of hypocrisy. I am not talking here about United Future members, but we have seen it time and time again with all sorts of television evangelists, British so-called family friendly Tory politicians, and priests. The reality is that we live in a pretty sexually dysfunctional society, and there are no easy solutions. However, being able to talk more openly about the issues is important.

As I was saying, there are no easy solutions, but to be able to talk and act more openly about issues including issues of sexuality is important, and I think the bill will help us in this. It was good to see in the Dominion Post this morning a large article trying to do some educational work about the sexual problems among couples. We have to recognise that sexuality is expressed in a glorious variety of ways, and we should not put up moralistic barriers or put people into boxes. If people feel too constrained they will escape and seek the solace of secret, anonymous commercial sex, which means increased prostitution. This is one of the reasons that we should not extend censorship the way the Government Administration Committee wants to with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act to try to cover nudity and other things.

We should not in any way limit the various legitimate forms of sexual expression and appreciation that do not have victims, because it only pushes people into undesirable forms of sex, like prostitution. This is all related to what we are trying to do with this bill, because if we do not get a more sexually functional society, we will continue to have a lot of prostitution.

I do support this bill, because it is one way of starting to deal with the problem. It will be out in the open and we can deal directly with what prostitution is about and the issues behind it. We can deal with the problems of trying to change our society to one that is less sexist because a sexist society tends to favour demeaning acts, like prostitution, towards women.

We can change our society to one that is more socially just, where women are not forced to out into prostitution. We can change our society to one that is less moralistic and that is, in moral terms, more libertarian so that we can openly discuss the questions and reduce the prevalence of prostitution in our society.