New Zealand

Prostitution policy: Full Decriminalisation

In June 2003, New Zealand decriminalised sex work with the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.
> Prostitution Reform Act 2003

Prostitution law reform in New Zealand

In June 2003, New Zealand became the first country to decriminalise sex work with the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) 2003. Sex work in New Zealand had not been illegal before the PRA. However, the Justice and Electoral Committee said that prior to the PRA a range of offences could be committed in association with acts of prostitution, and that for most forms of prostitution it was likely a law would be broken at some stage. This paper briefly outlines the history of prostitution in New Zealand, and the law, before examining the impact of the PRA on the number of sex workers, their working conditions and location of work.

Number of sex workers: Concern had been expressed that decriminalising prostitution would increase the number of sex workers. It is very difficult to calculate accurately the number of people involved in the sex industry, and estimates need to be treated with caution. There were an estimated 5,932 sex workers at about the time the PRA came into force according to a retrospective survey of Police officers with knowledge about the sex industry in Police Districts. In 2006 the Christchurch School of Medicine (CSOM) estimated there were 2,396 sex workers in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland, Nelson and the Hawke’s Bay. The following year it was estimated 2,332 sex workers were in those five locations. The Committee believed that the change in the earlier estimated number of sex workers from 5,932 to 2,332 indicated the limitations of initial data collection methods, and the more robust methodology used to estimate the later number, rather than a decline in sex workers. However, the Committee was satisfied that the popular assumption that decriminalisation would increase the numbers of people involved in prostitution was flawed.

The NZPC in 2010 said there were an estimated 400 street-based sex workers nationwide, though any estimate needs to be treated with caution due to the often temporary and sporadic nature of work. More recently, it has reported no apparent increase in the number of street-based sex workers (and sex workers in general) within Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Research indicates that these sex workers are predominantly female (although there are significant numbers of transgender people), and are predominantly Māori or Pasifika. The Committee and the CSOM believed that the number of street-based sex workers has remained stable since the PRA.

Information on the clients of sex workers is limited. Research suggests that many ‘normal’, successful, socially competent and often married men apparently purchase sexual services. The Committee considered research is needed to identify clients along with their motivations and reasons for buying sex.

Prostitution Survivor Testimony

Six survivors speak out about New Zealand’s punishing “sex” industry

Jun, 2017 – Below are six testimonies from women who have all been exploited within New Zealand’s sex trade, and who have exited to become vocally critical of the trade itself and wanting to see open debate on prostitution legislation in New Zealand.

The article on prostitution the Women’s Studies Journal requested – then brushed off

In October last year, a request to write a critical article for the Women’s Studies Journal was passed on to me. I was given a rather open brief to write a piece looking at the violence in prostitution in New Zealand, at short notice. The editors had done a call out for their “sex work” themed issue back in February, and were lacking in critical material – unsurprisingly, given the bias implicit in the theme. They did however have a very enthusiastic submission from the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective which, among other things, outright denies that sex trafficking takes place in New Zealand at all. So, I worked hard to write my response in the short time I was given – and then, funnily enough, the editors changed their mind about requiring it. This is the piece, amended for my blog: a comprehensive overview of trafficking, violence and silencing in New Zealand’s sex trade.

Prostitution Survivor Testimony

Ally-Marie Diamond

Jan 7, 2020 – Ally-Marie Diamond is of Maori/Pacific Islander heritage and now lives in Australia. She is a passionate activist against the sex trade and for the Nordic Model. This is her story of being groomed into prostitution in New Zealand. It is the (slightly edited) first part of a speech she gave last year to the South Australian and Northern Territory parliaments when they were debating bills for the Full Decriminalisation of the sex trade.
> Prostitution Survivor Testimony
> Full Decriminalisation of the sex trade will start an irreversible and dangerous domino effect
> Why the Nordic Model? A view from New Zealand

YouTube: Ally-Marie Diamond