Auckland Council has expressed regret for any offence caused over a booklet it helped produce on street prostitution in South Auckland that prompted a string of complaints to the Human Rights Commission.
The 19-page booklet was released last month and addresses the concerns of residents, councillors and business people and pushes for a law change for councils to ban prostitutes from working in certain areas.
Auckland University of Technology lecturer Lexie Matheson claimed the booklet was biased because it was written "largely by middle-class, white privileged heterosexual men" without any consultation and was discriminatory towards the transgender community.
Councillor Cathy Casey then complained after unsuccessfully trying to address the issue at a governing body meeting. The Human Rights Commission had asked her to resolve the issue within council, but having failed to do so she is now pushing for them to investigate.
Council Community Safety Forum Chairman George Wood said "we certainly didn't mean to offend anyone and council regrets any offence caused".
"There have also been concerns that within the document the term 'transvestite' is used when the correct term would have been a 'transgender person'. The term is used within interview scripts with two local people. If it is misused, it will be an issue of understanding, rather than prejudice," he said.
Wood said concerns had also been raised that the sex workers' needs were being ignored in favour of using their plight to push for law change.
"Some people have raised concerns that there needs to be more focus on the needs of the prostitutes themselves. I completely agree," he said.
"Street sex workers are often among the most marginalised, poverty stricken and vulnerable people in our society. They need support. However, that does not detract from the fact that the activities of street sex workers are causing distress in some of the poorest and most vulnerable parts of our city. We have to look at both the needs of the street sex workers and the needs of these communities."
A council spokesman this morning said all copies of the booklet had been distributed and that further copies would not be printed.
The council would not "support production of further copies with the text in its current form", he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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