Sex trade safer in New Zealand – and legalPublished on Thursday, 10 April 2014 12:47
Should prostitution be legal in Canada? People who think so look at New Zealand. “In New Zealand, the law is actually framed as a way to protect and promote the human rights of sex workers and to have occupational health and safety laws apply to them,” said Sandra Ka Hon Chu, co-director of research and advocacy with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
“They’ve found sex workers there feel more empowered, they feel greater ability to enforce their rights and their labour rights,” Chu said. New Zealand became the first country to decriminalize sex work when it passed the Prostitution Reform Act in 2003. The law maintains protection from exploitation of persons under 18, by prohibiting them from working in prostitution; if they are found working in the trade, youth are not criminalized but are considered victims of crime. Minors are not allowed to purchase sexual services.
Condom use is mandatory. Failure to use them can attract fines of up to $10,000 for brothel owners and up to $2,000 for sex workers and clients. The law requires brothel owners to be certified and allows local authorities to pass bylaws on locations and signage. The new law required a review of the results of the changes five years after the law’s implementation. The review committee included sex workers and their allies and was chaired by a former police commissioner. The number of sex workers didn’t go up. Young people weren’t being lured into the work by criminals.
Instead, sex workers have better employment conditions and face less violence than before the law, it found. As legalized workers, they have better relationships with police and are more willing to report violence or thefts against them. Sex-work venues can display frank safer sex information because of the law, Chu believes. The studies show high levels of condom use and a very low rate of HIV among New Zealand’s sex workers, she has said.
Many Canadian sex workers have said they don’t want the New Zealand approach wholesale in Canada but want decriminalization with the same underpinnings of respect for human rights as New Zealand has. “It’s a good model to look to,” Chu said. Decriminalization didn’t eliminate all evils. The studies found street-based sex workers were significantly more likely than other sex workers to experience incidents of violence, threats, rape and theft.
Clients were usually the perpetrators. While there is scant information about clients, research suggests many successful, socially competent and often married men purchase sexual services, it said. EVOLUTION OF DECRIMINALIZATION New Zealand’s new approach was the result of a 30-year evolution in public information and activism among sex workers.
The movement toward decriminalization began with publicity about human rights, the law’s focus on sex workers rather than clients, and about HIV/AIDS in the 1970s and 1980s. That led to activism among sex workers, whose New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC) presented arguments for decriminalization to a government committee in 1989.
Gradually, members of Parliament, women’s groups and AIDS organizations took interest. The first Prostitution Reform Bill was introduced in 2000 and the act became law in 2003.
Source: The StarPhoenix