Social work practice with sex workers in New Zealand occurs within a context of decriminalization since the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) in 2003. This article presents the findings of a qualitative study focused on social workers’ perceptions of sex work/ers, the PRA, and its influence on practice with individuals in the sex industry. The findings suggest that social workers hold nuanced perspectives on sex work. While decriminalization creates opportunities that support social work practice with sex workers, challenges to antioppressive, critical social work remain, even within the context of decriminalization.
Legislative approaches to the sex industry are hotly debated internationally and in recent years interest in decriminalization of sex work has been growing. However, activities relating to commercial sex remain criminalized in many parts of the world. Street-based sex work is most often criminalized and is often more aggressively policed than indoor work. This paper explores changes in the relationship between police and street sex workers in New Zealand since the decriminalization of sex work in 2003, from the perspective of sex workers, police and support agencies. This paper concludes that decriminalization enabled a dramatic shift in the approach to policing sex work and emphasizes the importance of these findings in the context of global debates on prostitution law reform.
Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault. However, until recently, there were significant barriers to the prosecution of those who raped sex workers. Prostitutes were seen as ‘commonly’ available to men, as always consenting to sex and thus as incapable of being raped. This article examines 51 judgments — from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand — where evidence of prostitution was presented between 1829 and 2004. It demonstrates an important change in the 1980s and 1990s when, for the first time, men began to be prosecuted and convicted for raping sex workers.This change was partly due to rape law reform, but also to feminist activism and broader changes in social attitudes to rape. The article argues that sex workers have recently been ‘re-made’ in law as women vulnerable to rape, as individuals able to give and withhold sexual consent. This development needs to be taken seriously so that law and policy addressed to the sex industry works to enlarge (not reduce or constrain) the making of prostitutes as subjects with consensual capacity. This necessarily involves attention to more legal rights for prostitutes, as workers, and calls into question the conceptualisation of prostitution as always involving rape.
Armstrong, Lynzi. “Diverse Risks, Diverse Perpetrators: Perceptions of Risk and Experiences of Violence amongst Street-Based Sex Workers in New Zealand.” International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 3, no. 3 (December 1, 2014): 40–54. doi:10.5204/ijcjsd.v3i3.146.
The management of violence-related risks on the street invariably relates to individual perceptions of violence amongst street-based sex workers. This paper explores perceptions and experiences of violence amongst street-based sex workers in Wellington and Christchurch. This paper begins with an overview of how risks of violence have been conceptualised and how the diversity of these risks is reflected in the perceptions and experiences of the women interviewed. Some complexities in how these risks were constructed and managed by the women are then explored, including perceptions of the street as a work environment. To conclude, I discuss the significance of these findings in the context of debates on sex worker safety.
Abel, Gillian M. “A Decade of Decriminalization: Sex Work ‘down Under’ but Not Underground.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 580–92. doi:10.1177/1748895814523024.
Costello, Robert, and Shady Saleh. “Book Review: The Punishment Imperative: The Rise and Fall of Mass Incarceration in America.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 629–31. doi:10.1177/1748895814544425.
Kotiswaran, Prabha. “Beyond the Allures of Criminalization: Rethinking the Regulation of Sex Work in India.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 565–79. doi:10.1177/1748895814542533.
Levy, Jay, and Pye Jakobsson. “Sweden’s Abolitionist Discourse and Law: Effects on the Dynamics of Swedish Sex Work and on the Lives of Sweden’s Sex Workers.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 593–607. doi:10.1177/1748895814528926.
Pitcher, Jane, and Marjan Wijers. “The Impact of Different Regulatory Models on the Labour Conditions, Safety and Welfare of Indoor-Based Sex Workers.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 549–64. doi:10.1177/1748895814531967.
Sanders, Teela, and Rosie Campbell. “Criminalization, Protection and Rights: Global Tensions in the Governance of Commercial Sex.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 535–48. doi:10.1177/1748895814543536.
Scoular, Jane, and Anna Carline. “A Critical Account of a ‘creeping Neo-Abolitionism’: Regulating Prostitution in England and Wales.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, no. 5 (November 1, 2014): 608–26. doi:10.1177/1748895814543534.
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.