4 Jul 2011

Prostitutes Collective disputes trafficking claim

9:27 am on 4 July 2011

The Prostitutes Collective says it is not aware of sex workers being forced to work against their will in New Zealand, despite a United States government report suggesting that happens.

The Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department says there is evidence of under-age women being forced into prostitution in New Zealand.

It draws heavily from stories in the New Zealand media such as an article about Asian women being forced into prostitution for up to 18 hours a day.

Prostitutes Collective national co-ordinator Catherine Healy says the US considers any prostitute under the age of 18 to be the victim of sex trafficking, but in New Zealand that's not the case.

She says while underage prostitution is a concern she has not encountered any sex workers here who have been forced to work against their will.

Ms Healy says she has come across some Asian prostitutes who work long hours but she calls that a labour issue rather than sex trafficking. She doubts the validity of the US report which she says is based on stories in the media.

The report also refers to stories of foreigners being forced to work in other New Zealand industries like agriculture and fishing.

Maritime Union spokesperson Victor Billot says the union's representatives will discuss human rights abuses on fishing vessels at a meeting with a United States ambassador who is visiting New Zealand this month.

Mr Billot says the meeting with the ambassador, Luis CdeBaca, shows the United States is taking the issue more seriously than the New Zealand Government.

He says his union has received numerous complaints from foreign fisherman that they have been physically abused while working in New Zealand waters.