The head of the national prostitutes union spoke out yesterday over comments made by anti- brothel protesters at a meeting in Dannevirke on Wednesday night.
The meeting was called to organise opposition against the Promiscuous Girlz brothel, which looks set to open on the main street of town. Speakers said the brothel would bring crime and drama, was sanctioning a slave-trade in women, and could increase incidences of paedophilia in the town. Ms Healy disputed these claims, saying the majority of people who use and work in brothels are not nasty or perverted criminals.
"People are always afraid of what they don't know, and the sex industry keeps itself, for the large part, behind closed doors."
The idea that prostitution is a "slave trade" is ludicrous, she said.
"In New Zealand, the incidence of people being coerced or forced into sex work is very low. For people to say it's about sex slavery and so on, it's wildly, wildly inflammatory."
Though there is an argument women should not sell their bodies for sex, prostitutes argue they should be able to use them how they like, Ms Healy said.
"I realise that women have had to fight for all sorts of rights for the last few centuries. But sex workers say that they want rights too, the right to carry out their work."
No evidence has been found to suggest more crime around brothels, and to suggest a link between a brothel catering for gay men and paedophilia is incredible, she said.
"That's amazing, that they would be drawing those conclusions in this century.
"I think it's going to be challenging opening in a town where there are attitudes like that. But in many, many situations they are coexisting in neighbourhoods without friction."
Brothel owner Teresa Mcgregor said she was aware of the meeting, and the town's reaction was unsurprising.
"It's to be expected, I suppose."
Everything was still going to plan, and the meeting would not make her rethink opening for business, she said: "No. Why should it?"
She would not comment on whether the negative community response could make it difficult for her to conduct business in the small town.
The final resource consent hearing is on Wednesday.