No doubt many people will be appalled when reading last week's Herald story noting that underage girls in south Auckland are being pimped out by their parents and relatives to be sex workers.
One local church pastor - from the C3 church - has said that he and church members have offered support to these underage girls, one as young as 11. However, this pastor told me that he has not gone to the police to lay a complaint.
Police have publicly denied there is a problem with underage street prostitution in the area. Perhaps this is because nobody has laid a complaint with the police. Are C3 church people offering support to these kids by merely returning them to their pimps and parents instead of Police and CYF?
Bob McCoskrie of Family First calls our current prostitution laws shameful and is campaigning to curb this behaviour by passing laws to arrest clients of sex workers. In effect that is a campaign to criminalise something that is already a crime - in terms of addressing underage sex work. Adult sex with minors is illegal. So is pimping for sex. The Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalised the sex industry, notes it is a criminal offence, with a prison term of up to seven years, to assist, facilitate, or encourage a person under 18 years of age to provide commercial sexual services. To induce or compel others to provide such services attracts a prison term of up to 14 years.
However, the act is not clear on how such illegal behaviour will be policed or those who are pimped to offer their bodies for sex will be protected from abuse. Parents of these kids may be more likely to come to police attention for smacking their kids rather than pimping them for sex.
So why aren't people making police complaints of unlawful behaviour? It's not like these kids sign binding employment contracts - and if they are pimped, it is arguable that they are consenting to what is, in effect, paid rape.
New Zealand First has drafted a Prostitution Reform (Control of Street Prostitution) Amendment Bill in attempts to address the problem: the problem of police turning a blind eye to illegal, underage sex work. The bill seeks to make all street prostitution a crime, punishable by a $2000 fine. This is a step further than other local bills seeking to restrict soliciting of sex work away from bars, cafes, sports grounds and restaurants, and in broad daylight away from the view of places such as schools, shops, hospitals and churches.
However, it may not see the light of day in its current form as the former Manukau City Council attempted to ban sex workers from the street but backtracked after legal advice stating that the move may contravene the Bill of Rights and the Prostitution Reform Act, as soliciting is now permissible.
What is actually needed is laws to clean the streets up of child sex workers and to regulate others. If Parliament refuses to pass associated laws, the Government should provide more support to the councils to do it, not just hand it to them to clean up the mess with a police force which ignores such criminal activity.
Dave Crampton is a Wellington based freelance journalist and writer. He researched the sex industry as part of his Politics degree and was the Australasian correspondent for ENInews for the past two years.