Fighting against NZ sex-trafficking
Report puts spotlight on murky businessRACHEL THOMAS
A Hamilton couple are being noticed by key government figures for taking a stand against child sex trafficking in New Zealand.
A report about the subject by Shimal Sataiya and Mark Calderwood was recently referred to in a general debate in Parliament and awaits further discussion by MPs.
In its 2012 Trafficking in Persons report, the United States Department of State said New Zealand was a source country for underage girls subjected to internal sex trafficking, Sataiya said.
The Ministry of Justice website states the New Zealand definition of trafficking requires international movement.
New Zealand is likely to categorise forcible movement of people within the country as kidnapping, slavery, or other related forms of offending.
Sataiya said evidence from Supreme Court Judge Susan Glazebrook said about 200 under 18-year-olds were working illegally within the sex industry in New Zealand.
"My argument is, so many people are ignorant about it happening in New Zealand - it makes it even more of a danger," Sataiya said.
Daniel Walker, founder of anti-trafficking organisation Nvader, is devoted to rescuing victims of trafficking in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Walker said those against trafficking were not in a fight against prostitution but against slavery.
Walker supported the findings in the US report.
"By the United Nations and American definition definitely - New Zealand does have trafficking . . . and there's anecdotal evidence to say New Zealand women have left for overseas and are now working in the sex industry in Southeast Asia and Australia."
In contrast, Walker said, the US definition says any time there is coercion and deception - that is trafficking. By US standards, he has experienced trafficking in New Zealand.
"From my time in the New Zealand police, I have charged people for selling underage girls in brothels in Christchurch.
"When it comes down to that sticky area of definition, that's New Zealand's problem. New Zealand has managed to sidestep putting a lot of focus and time on trafficking because we have such a loose definition.
"If the Mongrel Mob moves girls from Christchurch to Auckland, it's not deemed to be trafficking because they haven't crossed international borders."
Sataiya is a law graduate from Waikato University and wrote the report for a fourth-year assessment.
Once the assessment was over, Calderwood, a current law and business student at the university, added to the report and sent it to National MP Paul Foster-Bell in the hope it would be read.
"Often we omit what people don't talk about because they can't [talk about it]. Someone has to talk for these people," Calderwood said.
The US report also said a number of Pacific Island and Maori children were being trafficked within New Zealand by gang-controlled trafficking rings.
Sataiya said child sex trafficking in New Zealand was an issue that needed addressing. "The law can't do much, so change needs to come from people being more aware of this."
She said the pair would also like to see harsher penalties for trafficking and for the Government to redefine the terms surrounding the issue to ensure nothing slipped through the cracks.
Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse spoke last week at the Prevent People Trafficking Conference in Porirua. He said the Government "remains alert to the possibility of trafficking occurring here".
"New Zealand has effected stringent and comprehensive anti-trafficking laws as part of the Crimes Act, and this includes measures to punish those who arrange entry, reception, concealment or harbouring of persons through coercion and/or deception. The penalties - a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment and/or a $500,000 fine - reflect how seriously we view the crime."
Woodhouse said the sex industry and labour in the horticulture and viticulture industries had been identified as high-risk sectors for trafficking in the New Zealand context.
Foster-Bell said that as deputy chair of the justice select committee, the protection of children and younger victims was something he was very concerned about.
"We have done a lot to ensure New Zealand kids are safe but I think looking at strengthening trafficking laws - not just for kids, but for all victims of the unscrupulous crooks who seek to smuggle human cargo - is a next sensible step."
Hamilton East MP David Bennett agreed the rules around internal trafficking needed tightening.
"[To be charged with trafficking] I understand you have to bring somebody in from overseas and cross an international border."
WHAT IS CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING?
Child protection organisation ECPAT [End Child Prostitution and Trafficking], defines child sex trafficking as "cross-border or internal, recruitment, transportation, harbouring, transfer or receipt of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation". This is done by coercion, deception, abuse of power, abduction or control.