A decade of decriminalization: Sex work ‘down under’ but not underground

Abstract:

New Zealand was the first country to decriminalize sex work. This article provides a reflective commentary on decriminalization, its implementation and its impacts in New Zealand. New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC) was the key player in getting decriminalization on the policy agenda and their effective networking played an essential role to the successful campaign for legislative change. There were contentious clauses within the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) which were of concern to NZPC and others. However, the research which informed the review of the Act has shown that decriminalization has been successful in making the industry safer and improving the human rights of sex workers within all sectors of the industry. The PRA provides several protections for sex workers, which means that their human rights and citizenship can be safeguarded. Yet there has been little movement towards decriminalization in other countries and reluctance by some to draw on New Zealand’s experience. Indeed, it cannot be claimed that decriminalization will be experienced in the same way in other countries. New Zealand is a small island with a population of just over four million and movement across its borders is more restricted than countries that are part of the European Union. Nevertheless, other countries may find the arguments used to get legislative change in New Zealand useful within their own context.

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