New Zealand


In 2003, New Zealand decriminalized prostitution. 

So what has been the impact of decriminalisation over the past nine years?
   

Impact of decriminalisation


A review of our posted articles (see Get Informed-News-Prostitution-NZ) shows the impact of decriminalisation. 

 

  
"Entrepeneurs" John and Michael Chow, aka the "brothel
brothers"
(Photo: Ross Giblin/Dominion Post)


New Zealand marketed as a destination for sex-buying
retirees
(Photo: Expat Daily News)


In summary, decriminalisation of prostitution -

  • Young women
    • Is luring increasing numbers of “desperate” young women into prostitution. article (see alternative view: article)
    • Is luring increasing numbers of overseas students studying in New Zealand legally, to engage in prostitution illegally. article
    • Is luring increasing numbers of foreign women (mostly Asian) to New Zealand illegally, to engage in prostitution. article; article
  • Children and youth
    • Has led to a rise in child prostitution. articlearticle
    • Has reduced the sexual exploitation of children including their rape and gang rape to a mere social, rather than criminal, issue. articlearticle
    • Has not resulted in a law enforcement crackdown on sexual exploiters of the under aged, as promised nine years ago by politicians. articlearticle; article
  • Health, safety, violence and gender inequality
    • Has not prevented murders of women in prostitution. article; article
    • Has not prevented other forms of violence against women in prostitution. see section below or here
    • Has not prevented women from being forced to "work" in slave-like conditions. article
    • Requires women in prostitution who are forced to operate in unsafe or slave-like conditions to seek expensive and drawn-out legal redress against their employer through the Employment Court (personal grievance claim). article
    • Has led to "bargain-basement" sex-for-sale prices in some brothels. article
    • Has not deterred unsafe sex practices, with unprotected sex offered for the "right price". article
    • Has led to a broadening of genres being sought by sex buyers, and met (eg "heavily pregnant and lactating"). article
    • Continues to entrench gender inequality, where the "paymaster" is dominant and young women are reduced to sexual subservience. article
  • Communities
    • Has impacted negatively on residential communities, where sex traders' rights prevail over residents' rights. article; article; article; article; article
    • Has impacted negatively on business communities, where sex traders' rights prevail over business owners' rights. article
    • Has normalised prostitution, despite politicians' promises it would not. article
  • Local councils
    • Has caused ongoing bureaucratic problems for local bodies and city councils, wasting a massive amount of (ratepayer funded) resourcing. article; article; article
  • Legal pimping/profiteering
    • Has seen a big increase in Asian-run brothels relative to population size (9.2% as of 2010 source). article
    • Has turned former pimps and brothel owners into "entrepreneurs", paving the way for them to significantly expand sex business opportunities including mega-brothels. article; article; article 
    • Has turned some national newspapers into pimps (pimps: those who, for profit, facilitate the finding of customers for prostitutes) (eg the New Zealand Herald runs countless daily sexual service advertisements, the vast majority offering sex buyers a smorgasbord of mostly young women of varying ages, ethnicities, characteristics, (in)experience and breast cup size).
    • Has one pornography marketer offering prospective sex buyers cut-out discount coupons. article
  • Illegal profiteers
    • Has seen a dramatic increase in commercial unlicensed brothels. article
    • Has seen the springing up of a large illegal sex industry. article
  • Trafficking for the sex trade
    • Assists traffickers (actual and prospective) by removing a major obstacle within prostitution, its illegality. article
    • Makes it harder for trafficking victims to be distinguished from foreign women with false passports who are committing Immigration offences. articlearticle 
  • Sex tourism 
    • Has seen New Zealand marketed internationally as a sex tourist destination for sex-buying retirees. article 


       

Adverse experiences on those engaged in prostitution post-decriminalisation


In New Zealand, in a 12-month period some four to five years following decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003, a government published Ministry of Justice Report (2008) found -

Of women engaged in street prostitution
- 39% had been threatened with physical violence
- 31% experienced refusal by client to pay
- 24% had money stolen by a client
- 13% had been physically assaulted by client
- 11% had received abusive text messages from clients
- 10% had been held somewhere against their will

 Of women engaged in the managed indoor sector (eg brothel)
- 10% had been physically assaulted by client

Of women engaged in the private indoor sector (eg SOOB, small owner-operated brothel, purportedly the "safest" sector)
- 36% has received abusive text messages from clients
- 16% had been threatened with physical violence
- 12% had experienced refusal by client to pay

(For full statistics, see Table below.)


Table 11:  Adverse Experiences while Working in the Last 12 Months by Sector
 (highlights added) 

 
Total
%
Street Workers
%
Managed Indoor
%
Private Indoor
%
Experienced refusal by client to pay (N=769)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
12.6
9.1
53.8
31.5
11.7
46.6
7.5
4.9
63.9
12.6
10.0
53.3
Had money stolen by a client (N=768)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
8.3
15.5
63.1
24.4
10.6
64.3
4.2
19.3
71.7
7.9
18.3
53.3
Been physically assaulted by client (N=770)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
9.8
19.2
75.9
13.4
19.2
64.5
10.4
13.5
86.4
7.3
32.0
53.9
Threatened by someone with physical violence (N=768)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
15.9
20.0
70.0
39.5
17.8
72.2
9.3
14.8
77.3
16.3
27.0
60.1
Held somewhere against their will (N=766)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
4.7
21.1
59.8
10.2
19.3
40.5
4.2
30.1
63.4
3.2
3.5
79.2
Been raped by a client (N=769)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
3.0
32.1
65.0
5.3
6.0
53.8
3.3
35.4
71.0
1.5
62.3
62.3
Received abusive text messages from clients (N=771)
Reported to police
Reported to another person besides police
17.3
6.1
44.2
11.0
11.2
42.3
7.4
14.2
46.4
36.4
2.6
43.7


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





- Ministry of Justice. (2008). Report of the Prostitution Law & Review Committee on the Operation
  of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. 
Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Justice. p.56
 

The above statistics do not take into account three women engaged in street prostitution who have been murdered since decriminalisation. 

 "Opinion among CJRC* informants differed on the impact of the PRA on adverse incidents, including violence, being experienced in the sex industry. The majority felt that the PRA could do little about the violence that occurred.

Clients getting stroppy will always happen. This was the case before the Act and after it.
(Brothel operator, CJRC, 2007)

There has been no impact. There will always be ugly mugs.
(NGO – health, CJRC, 2007)"


* CRJC - Crime and Justice Research Centre.

 

 

 

 

 








- Ministry of Justice. (2008). Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee on the Operation
  of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. 
Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Justice. p.57

 

Cognitive distortions


Decriminalisation did not provide any assistance or benefit to any of the three women brutally murdered while "working".

So-called "civilised countries" denounce behaviours such as physical or sexual assault, threats of violence, being held unwillingly, rape, and verbal abuse by men who have intimate access to women (termed "adverse experiences" in the Government report above).  It is commonly called domestic or partner abuse.  Women are commonly urged to leave such harmful situations.

The mere addition of cash in such a situation alters nothing, despite those who seek to accommodate, trivialise and cognitively distort the violence and its ever present threat, and reframe it with rhetoric around “agency” and “empowerment” for women. 

No industry that is inherently predicated on gendered violence, inequality and degradation should be elevated to the status of “work”.  Neither should it be legitimised by the State.  
 

Relationship characteristics

Opponents of prostitution

Supporters of prostitution

Physical and sexual assaults, abuse, and
threats of violence by intimate other

Not tolerated
Denounced as abuse
Recognised as harmful

Not tolerated
Denounced as abuse
Recognised as harmful

Physical and sexual assaults, abuse, and
threats of violence by intimate other/s + cash

Not tolerated
Denounced as abuse
Recognised as harmful

Tolerated
Elevated to "work" status
Distorted as "empowering"