New Zealand is often touted as a kind, fair and good “sex work“ paradise.
Let’s say – that might depend on a certain “conceptualization” of “paradise”.
Rae Story – Interview with prostitute survivor & feminist Rae Story: Part 1
Rae Story on neoliberalism, ‘sex work,’ and the ‘middle-classing’ of prostitution.
Rae Story – “Working in a New Zealand brothel was anything but ‘a job like any other’”
Sabrinna Valisce, quoted in:
“Is the New York Times Endorsing Legalization of Prostitution?” By Taina Bien-Aimé
“The Evidence About Prostitution That The New York Times Ignored” by Rachel Moran
„Why the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective shouldn’t get the first and final say on prostitution“ by reneejg.
“Decriminalising the sex trade will not protect its workers from abuse” by Julie Bindel
Sources on New Zealand, listed by date:
The Prostitution Reform Act 2003:
An overview of prostitution and colonization, with its focus on Canada, but with mention of New Zealand. The data is from before the New Zealand law (PRA, Prostitution Reform Act), but still applies as the law does not address any of this – beyond making it possible to profit from the homelessness of Maori women:
„A recent study in New Zealand found similar housing crises among the Maori. Maori in prostitution were significantly more likely than European-ancestry New Zealanders to have been homeless and to have entered prostitution as children (Farley, 2003a). Similar findings with respect to high rates of childhood abuse and entry of Maori women into prostitution at a young age have been reported by others (Plumridge & Abel, 2000, Saphira & Herbert, 2004)“
A compilation of literature on the situation in New Zealand from 2005, evaluations or data from after the 2003 law cannot have had much influence here.
Health – “The Impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the Health and Safety of Sex Workers” 2007:
(Everything is fine except for the few issues we can’t deny.)
Prostitution and violence:
2008 Law Review Committee Report which found that the PRA could do little about the violence that occurred. Page 57 of the report. (Thanks for the page, Nordic Model Now!)
PP 118-119 point to an increase in street based prostitution, but the report also insists that there is no truly dependable data. Sources quoted later in the articles in this compilation here include this link:
The link however only leads to the Ministry of Justice’s opening page, and no combination of key words and/ or date leads to any publication. From the title there may be another, separate publication detailing street based prostitution, but since we even have to link to the “Prostitutes’ Collective” for the main report, I have no idea where to find it. The New Zealand Government, like the German government, clearly has no interest in facilitating critical research.
Violence in prostitution and the trafficking of Indigenous women and girls:
“What really happened in New Zealand after prostitution was decriminalized in 2003” Prostitution Research and Education (October 2008):
More articles and papers regarding the situation especially in street based prostitution in 2008:
NZ Parliamentary papers from 2012 (or until 2012):
„The Committee’s 2008 report on the PRA concluded that ‚On the whole, the PRA has been effective in achieving its purpose, and the Committee is confident that the vast majority of people involved in the sex industry are better off under the PRA than they were previously‘. [Note the very general term „people involved in the sex trade.“] However, it was noted that progress in some areas had been slow. For instance, many sex workers were still vulnerable to ‘exploitative employment conditions’. [Note the term „sex workers“ here, rather different from the very general term designating „people involved in the sex trade“ who are better off. Maybe not the same group? Maybe those „involved“ in the exploitative employment conditions?] There have also been reports of some sex workers being forced to take clients against their will. The Committee said that an assessment of the PRA’s impact should be undertaken at a later date to evaluate whether the Act is achieving its purpose, if any unintended consequences have arisen, and if the PRA needs amendment. The Act’s longer-term impact should be ‘much clearer’ by 2018. “
This summary also concludes that there was no evidence of any increase in street prostitution in 2010, and gives the number of 400 “street based sex workers” nationwide. It states that “More recently, [the NZPC] has reported no apparent increase in the number of street-based sex workers (and sex workers in general) within Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.” The summary admits that “any estimate needs to be treated with caution due to the often temporary and sporadic nature of work”. It skips 2008 findings. The NZPC is the New Zealand Prostitutes‘ Collective, a well researched pro sex industry advovacy group. Other sources in this compilation, e.g. the article by Renee, describe them.
The overall figure for “sex workers” prior to the Prostitution Reform Act was estimated at 5,932, and by 2007 had apparently decreased to 2,332. Since there are limits to the credibility of this claim, this is being put down to methodology and initial data collection methods.
In other words: A 2012 Government summary on the alleged successes of the New Zealand approach admits en passant that original data was deeply flawed. It also plays the “number and data” game: In the end they do not have any credible data because they do not compile any so any criticism of their approach cannot be based on any data. (1)
The New Zealand Ministry of Justice Report detailing an increase in street based prostitution is neither mentioned nor can it be located, view the link above.
Report to CEDAW by CATW New Zealand, published via Turn Off The Red Light (Ireland):
Petition submitted by Elizabeth Subritzky and others for the Nordic Model
Evidence of its submission here:
Critical article quoting survivors, and it names Elizabeth Subritzky’s petition:
Article by Lauren Hersh on CNN Freedom Project:
“In New Zealand, where prostitution and activities surrounding it were decriminalized in 2003, Prime Minister John Key has said this has not resulted in significant reductions in street and underage prostitution.”
In a government report, women in prostitution also said that the deregulation of prostitution did not reduce violence in the sex industry and that “abuse and harassment of street-based sex workers by drunken members of the public is common.“ (September 2013)
From “The Fair Observer”, September 2013:
„Wherever prostitution is legalized, sex trafficking in the region increases, according to the International Organization for Migration. In the Netherlands, the sex industry increased by 25 percent after legalization. In Victoria, Australia, the number of legal brothels doubled, while illegal brothels increased by 300 percent. A 200-400 percent increase in street prostitution has been reported in Auckland, New Zealand since prostitution was decriminalized. After prostitution was legalized in Germany, the numbers of trafficked women increased dramatically.“ – For New Zealand the internal link is to Prostitution Research and Education. (September 2013)
References by the (former) NZ Prime Minister to the Ministry of Justice Report
The Report may possibly be included in the overall evaluation submitted in 2008, but that can no longer be found as a separate publication:
“Prime Minister John Key has said this has not resulted in significant reductions in street and underage prostitution” …. comes up a lot. A dismal article here; apparently there’s a will to reduce street prostitution, well of course, we don’t want the misery and exploitation right under our noses, do we?
“The New Zealand decriminalization also failed. A July 2005 report by Manukau city council said the nuisance factor escalated and street workers quadrupled despite bylaws regulating the location of brothels. “It was widely expected that the outcome of legalizing prostitution would be that sex trade workers would generally operate from safe, regulated and legal brothels. In Manukau, that has not been the case.” New Zealand police, meanwhile, say organized crime groups are involved in many aspects of prostitution. “
Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in New Zealand – sources by the US State Department:
Two articles, 2012 and 2014 respectively:
“New Zealand has been named as a „source country“ for sex trafficking of underage girls and a destination country for forced labour in a sharply critical report released by the US State Department.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the annual Trafficking in Persons report in Washington DC this morning.
It accuses New Zealand of having a small number of girls and boys, often of Maori or Pacific Island descent, who are trafficked domestically as street prostitutes.
They can be the victim of gang trafficking rings, the report said.”
„The US State Department Trafficking in Persons 2014 Report, released today, said foreign men and women were subject to forced labour and sex trafficking in New Zealand, but the government had not prosecuted any trafficking cases in the last eight years.
The report criticised New Zealand’s lack of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, and recommended New Zealand’s legal framework be expanded to prohibit and punishr all forms of human trafficking.“
These articles point to another parallel between Germany and New Zealand – an unwillingness by the respective governments to address human trafficking and to implement international law. Germany took more than five years to finally implement a binding (!) EU directive on trafficking, and successive New Zealand governments also seem to be dragging their feet over this issue.
Links to the US State Departments reports and assessments:
2014 – and some of these statements fully apply to Germany as well:
“The Government of New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government, however, has not prosecuted any trafficking cases or convicted any trafficking offenders under its anti-trafficking legislation in the last eight years. It has not identified or certified any trafficking victims in the last 10 years, although it has conducted prevention and monitoring programs in vulnerable labor sectors. Amendments to the national anti-trafficking legislation to conform New Zealand law to international law requirements awaited parliamentary approval at the end of the reporting period. The government did not initiate any new investigations in 2013; three reported trafficking investigations from 2012 did not lead to prosecutions, despite evidence of forced labor. The government did not provide any trafficking-specific services to potential victims in vulnerable groups. The government, in collaboration with civil society members, continued to conduct awareness trainings throughout the year for government officials likely to encounter trafficking victims.”
2015 – some improvements on a legal level
“A small number of Pacific Islands and New Zealand (often of Maori descent) girls and boys are at risk of sex trafficking in street prostitution, and some are victims of trafficking in gangs. Some children are recruited by other girls or compelled by family members, into prostitution.
The Government of New Zealand fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government initiated its first anti-trafficking prosecution under the Crime Act of 1961—involving labor exploitation of Indian students—and convicted two traffickers in two child sex trafficking cases. New Zealand’s Parliament passed a second reading of the Omnibus Crime Bill, which contains amendments that conform New Zealand law to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Parliament approved the Fisheries Foreign Charter Vessels Amendments, and the government implemented efforts to prevent trafficking onboard vessels in New Zealand waters. The government, however, did not adequately identify or certify any trafficking victims in vulnerable sectors or among vulnerable groups and continued to treat possible forced labor cases as labor violations.”
2016 – strong words:
“New Zealand is a destination country for foreign men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Foreign men and women from China, India, the Philippines, countries in the Pacific and Latin America, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are vulnerable to forced labor in New Zealand’s agricultural, construction, and hospitality sectors, or as domestic workers. Some foreign workers are charged excessive recruitment fees, experience unjustified salary deductions, non- or underpayment of wages, excessively long working hours, restrictions on their movement, passport retention, and contract alteration. Some migrant workers are forced to work in job conditions different from those promised during recruitment but do not file complaints due to fear of losing their temporary visas. Foreign men aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters are subjected to forced labor. Foreign women from Asia are at risk of coercive or forced prostitution. Some international students and temporary visa holders are vulnerable to forced labor or prostitution. A small number of Pacific Island and New Zealand (often of Maori descent) girls and boys are at risk of sex trafficking in street prostitution. Some children are recruited by other girls or compelled by family members into prostitution.”
Improvements regard the fishing industry.
2017 – some improvements, but clear recommendations:
“…. amend the law to define the sex trafficking of children as not requiring the use of force, fraud, or coercion and to remove the possibility of a fine alone as a sentence; provide human trafficking training to judges and prosecutors; update the national action plan to address current trafficking trends in the country; expand anti-trafficking awareness campaigns; and engage in efforts to reduce demand of forced labor, including in supply chains, and sexual commercial exploitation, especially of children and foreign women.”
Summary of the New Zealand situation as published by the Hansard Papers, Britain (in the context of the British committees regarding legal approaches to “sex work”):
An overview of New Zealand’s crime statistics regarding violence against women in the context of the Prostitution Reform Act – „Meme about rape in New Zealand since the full decriminalisation of the sex trade“ – Nordic Model Now
An outstanding compilation of sources from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia – „Prostitution in New Zealand“, sorted by date of publication.
(At the same time the article has the same problems I encountered when assembling this list: The link to the government report has been disabled and leads to government websites only, and no combination of key words yields links to the reports.)
“What lies beneath prostitution policy in New Zealand?” by Maddy Coy and Pala Molisa, edited by Liz Kelly:
Article with links to survivor evidence, contrasting the clear statements by survivors with the rosy light and roaring silence presented by the NZ government’s interpretation of its findings (Dec 2016)
“The adulation of the NZ approach by its defenders masks the silence about women’s experiences of harm, with evidence glossed over or distorted. Take, for example, violence.
The Westminster government Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) interim report quotes several sources who claim that decriminalisation in NZ has ‘encouraged’ women to report violence, and that ‘women were allowed to report without fear of action by the police’. The HASC report cites a conclusion of the 2008 Prostitution Law Reform Act Committee (PLRAC) report: interviewees felt ‘women were more likely’ to report violence to the police under decriminalisation. These claims make a subtle but important elision: there is a difference between aiming to encourage women to report violence to the police, perceiving that women would be more likely to and/or were allowed to, and paying attention to the evidence that women are not actually reporting. Research cited by the PLRAC report for example, suggests that ‘few’ women across all sectors of the NZ sex industry had reported violence to the police.”
„But decriminalisation of prostitution was very much a double-edged sword. Full decriminalisation also removed penalties for pimping and brothel-keeping, and thus removed barriers to the expansion of the sex trade; its most far-reaching effect was to normalise the practice.“ (As has happened in Germany.)
„Consequently, the sex trade aggressively expanded out of the back alleys onto the main street and into the suburbs – so fast, in fact, that local authorities had to rush through new bylaws against opening brothels right next door to schools. The sex trade grew in parallel with the explosive growth in the circulation of pornography – and in mutual dependence with it.“
On the manipulation of evidence and the silencing of survivors:
„How New Zealand’s sex trade lobby keeps a gag on feminism“ by Renee
To advocate this model, NZPC spokespeople routinely minimise violence and exploitation in prostitution. In 2016, one spokesperson referred to sex trafficking as a “working holiday” on Radio New Zealand. National coordinator Catherine Healy claimed that only ten per cent of women want to leave the sex trade when a safehouse opened earlier this year; and community liaison Ahi Wi-Hongi has claimed that only four per cent of women in prostitution are coerced – when this figure comes from a survey showing that 4% are kidnapped.
As part of this effort to minimise violence in the sex trade, NZPC needs to suppress any exposure of sex trade violence from prostituted women themselves. Kate*, a New Zealand based survivor, says that NZPC “was set up with the goal of introducing full decriminalisation to New Zealand, and they are very hostile to any prostituted woman who might question whether this was in fact in our best interests.”
Evidence that legalising or decriminalising or endorsing prostitution does nothing to minimise or eliminate any kind of violence:
Girls as young as aged nine, from minorities, here the Kiwi, are forced into the sex trade:
NZ’s underbelly of forced sex trade involves Kiwis as young as 12, researcher says (September 2017)
Michelle Duff: It’s 2017, and there’s sex trafficking in NZ (September 2017)
Exclusive: ‚Adults setting up kids to be repeatedly raped, and making money from it‘ (September 2017)
(1) The „number and data game“:
Approach: “We cannot say anything for sure and your anti-prostitution approach is based on faulty data, as there is no clear data that shows any increase in trafficking, or anything else, on the contrary, and we’ll do our damndest to make sure there won’t be any data, because we won’t collect any.” Kind regards, the German and Dutch governments.
Cf. The German Prostitution Act – myths, background, scope ….