VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
Political parties have also adopted platforms defining prostitu- tion as work. For example, the Green Party has championed pros- titution as labor and those in prostitution as sex workers. A NZ Green Party member described the decriminalization of prostitu- tion as a way of protecting prostitutes’ rights as workers (Sue Bradford, Green Party public speech in Auckland, New Zealand, June 26, 2003). However, another sponsor of the NZ decriminal- ization bill admitted, “it’s going to be the owners or the operators [of brothels and other sex businesses] who are going to be the long-term beneficiaries [of decriminalization]” (Else, 2003, n.p.). In this statement, the politician seems to acknowledge that work- ers’ rights in prostitution are a political fantasy. While appearing to promote public health, the NZ law keeps the names of brothel owners secret, thus making public health inspections of brothels an impossibility. The outraged mayor of Auckland, New Zealand, wrote, “This so-called legitimate profession remains partly hid- den behind a veil of secrecy [under the new law]” (Banks, 2003, n.p.). In fact, the law protects the privacy of pimps and generally represents the interests of johns.
Support for legalized prostitution comes from many who believe that legalization will decrease the harm of prostitution, like a bandage on a wound. People are genuinely confused about how to address what they intuitively understand to be the harm of prostitution. They ask, “Wouldn’t it be at least a little bit better if it were legalized? Wouldn’t there be less stigma, and wouldn’t prostitutes somehow be protected?” For example, NZ Prime Min- ister Helen Clark was quoted as saying that prostitution is “abhorrent” while at the same time supporting her Labour Party’s prostitution decriminalization bill as a way to reduce the harm of prostitution (Banks, 2003).
People are confused by the illogic of vaguely written public policies that claim to reduce the harm of legalized prostitution. For example, the NZ Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) establishes risk assessments for various occupations, set- ting amounts for what employers must pay to cover medical and rehabilitation claims. Prostitution has been categorized by the ACC as a safer job than child care attendant or ambulance staff (Dearnaley, 2003).
Legal strategies to promote prostitution as work may be framed as issues of prostitutes’ human rights, further confusing