Saturday, 29 January 2011

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.

In sisterhood,



For those who want to know the voting break-down went like this:

In support: Len Brown, Cameron Brewer, Sandra Coney, Chris Fletcher, Mike Lee, Des Morrison, Calum Penrose, Noelene Raffills, Sharon Stewart, John Walker, George Wood.
Against: Arthur Anae, Cathy Casey, Michael Goudie, Ann Hartley, Richard Northey, Wayne Walker, Penny Webster.
Absent: Penny Hulse, Jami-Lee Ross.


Giovanni Tiso said...

"But I do recognise that that is a position with a"

Something missing there methinks. Feel free to delete comment once fixed.

Julie said...

Thanks for this Maia.

It came up at our December Local Board meeting - our role, as a Board well outside the area the Bill proposes to regulate, was just to be made aware of the Council's intention to submit and the lines they were going to submit upon. We specifically asked for advice from council officers about whether this just applied to a specific part of the old Manukau City, and were told yes. Therefore we noted the Council submission and moved on. I will be really annoyed if it turns out that advice was incorrect, as we would have missed an opportunity to assert a contrary view.

On the whole it seems to me that the Bill is solving the wrong problem. The problem is not the presence of street-based sex workers, it is the working conditions of those sex workers (and probably many who aren't street-based), and the financial pressures they face. Driving them underground only makes it harder to resolve the real problem.

Maia said...

Giovanni - fixed thanks.

Julie - Thanks. From what I've heard and the draft of the bill I read - a more correct answer would be "I don't know". At the moment the bill talks about "Manukau City Council." Obviously if it is passed the law will not. I don't think at this point we know what changes select committee/parliament will make to make the bill before it comes law. I don't know where that would leave your board.

Anonymous said...

Surely there must be different definitions of feminism and to let a group of people define what feminism is or isn't is hierarchical isn't it?

- Mr.F

Boganette said...

Feminism really isn't that difficult to comprehend. If you don't support women and their right to autonomy you're not a feminist. How is that a concept that's so hard to understand Mr F?

Anonymous said...

@Boganette - every feminist has her own idea of what is feminist. You have left/right feminists who are more conservative who think they are doing the right thing, while the more liberal ones will also think they too are doing the right thing.

Boganette said...

Left or right doesn't matter. If you don't support women and their right to autonomy you're not a feminist.