New nuances in the bourgeois approach to women's liberation: prostitution is not nice

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Sat Jul 19 06:24:06 MDT 2003

NZ brothel law condemned at UN

By HELEN TUNNAH, deputy political editor
Members of a key women's committee at the United Nations have asked the New
Zealand Government to overturn the law to decriminalise prostitution.

Hungarian Kristina Morval told the UN committee prostitution treated women
like pornography.

It was humiliating and oppressive, she said in New York this week.

French delegate Francoise Gaspard asked if the laws would help women get out
of the sex trade or do anything to stop people trafficking.

The criticism came as the special 23-nation committee was hearing the
Government's report about how New Zealand is meeting its obligations under
the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against

Just three weeks ago politicians voted 60-59, with Muslim MP Dr Ashraf
Choudhary abstaining, to decriminalise prostitution, and allow
brothel-keeping and pimping.

The measure divided women's rights advocates here, was opposed by religious
bodies but was welcomed by groups such as the Prostitutes Collective.

It was not a Government law, but was sponsored by Labour MP Tim Barnett
through a member's bill.

Women's Affairs Minister Ruth Dyson presented the report to the UN committee
and was told New Zealand should avoid becoming complacent just because it
has women as Prime Minister and Governor-General.

The UN committee's formal report on the meeting said experts questioned the
new prostitution laws, and listed their concerns.

Ms Morval, one of 23 men and women on the committee, wanted the Government
to reconsider the laws.

She said New Zealand considered pornography harmful because it created
inaccurate stereotypes and encouraged inappropriate behaviour towards women.

"With all due respect, was that not an outline of what the Government had
done to women's equality by legalising prostitution," she said.

"Regardless of whether it was a matter of free choice, prostitution was
oppressive and humiliating, for it was about men paying money to use women
as less than human beings."

Ms Gaspard asked if prostitution was now considered a profession just like
any other in New Zealand.

Ms Dyson told the committee the new law allowed for a review of the policy
in five years.

She said the Government would monitor closely how the new laws worked.

She faced questioning over the impact of health reforms and about the
ongoing problems with the gender pay gap between men and women.

There was also concern about the wellbeing of migrant, Maori and Pacific
women, and the high suicide rate of young women.

New Zealand signed up to the UN convention in 1985, and is one of 174

It is touted as a bill of rights for women and requires nations to meet 16
articles outlawing discrimination.

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