Prostitution law ‘leads to sex slavery’

The Dominion Post 06 June 2008

A United States Government report on modern slavery has accused New Zealand of being a destination country for the trafficking of women from Malaysia, Hong Kong and China for sex. The US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons makes grim reading on a global scale. New Zealand gets off relatively lightly. The report is critical of legalised prostitution and says sentences for those convicted of exploiting minors remain relatively light – including home detention in one case. Among foreign women in New Zealand’s commercial sex trade, some may be trafficking victims, though estimates of international trafficking victims are modest, the State Department says.

The report says the Government is doing nothing to reduce demand for the legalised adult commercial sex industry. The US Government opposes legalised prostitution, and the report describes prostitution as “inherently harmful and dehumanising”. It calls on the Government to set up an anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at clients of the sex trade and urges it to continue efforts to identify trafficking victims in the trade and among vulnerable groups such as migrant labourers. A police spokesman said the force was “not aware of any cases involving ‘trafficking’ in New Zealand”. Prime Minister Helen Clark and Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove declined to comment. Labour Department acting policy group manager Stephen Dunstan said there was no proof that New Zealand was a destination country for the trafficking of women for sex.