Prostitution in New Zealand

Prostitution and brothel keeping are legal in New Zealand.


The earliest known examples of the exchange of sex for material gain in New Zealand occurred in the early period of contact between indigenous M?ori and European and American sailors. Along with food, water and timber, sex was one of the major commodities exchanged for European goods. The Bay of Islands and in particular the town of Kororareka was notorious for this. It is not clear whether these exchanges necessarily constituted prostitution in the usual sense of the word. In some cases the sex may have been part of a wider partnership between a tribe and a ship's crew, akin to a temporary marriage alliance. The amount of choice women had about their participation seems to have varied.

Until 2003, advertising the sale of sex ('soliciting') was illegal, although the actual sale of sex itself was not proscribed. It was also illegal to run a brothel, and to live from the earnings of prostitution. Since this did little to actually stop prostitution, the industry usually maintained a thin pretense of being something else. Prostitutes advertised their services as 'escorts' and brothels advertised themselves as 'massage parlours'.

Prostitution Reform Act 2003

On 25 June 2003, a bill was passed in Parliament that legalised soliciting, living off the earnings of prostitution and brothel-keeping. Brothel keepers must apply for an operator's license although this is a formality unless the person has a serious criminal conviction.

This bill passed narrowly; of 120 MPs, 60 voted for it, 59 against, and one politician, Labour's Ashraf Choudhary, the country's only Muslim MP, abstained. The result was a surprise as most commentators had expected the bill to narrowly fail. An impassioned speech to parliament by Georgina Beyer, a member of parliament and former sex worker, was believed by many observers to have persuaded several wavering MP's, possibly including Mr. Choudhary, to change their votes at the last minute. The vote was a conscience vote, meaning that MPs voted according to their personal beliefs rather than following a party policy.

After the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act, the Maxim Institute and other conservative Christian organisations tried to gain an appropriate number of signatures for a citizens initiated referendum under New Zealand's Citizens Initiated Referendum Act 1993. Although it was allowed an extension, anti-bill groups fell well short of gaining the number of authenticated signatures required. In the current 48th New Zealand Parliament, the Prostitution Law Reform (Manukau City Council) Amendment Bill led to hearings before a select committee, but failed to pass its second parliamentary reading. In addition, court challenges have usually failed to uphold restrictive council bylaws that try to obstruct the purposes of the legislation: decriminalisation, health and occupational safety for sex workers.

In September 2006 a report by the Otago University's Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences for the Review Committee indicated that the number of prostitutes plying their trade on the streets, since the changes of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, has remained the same or reduced in some cases.

Prostitution today

As in other countries, New Zealand prostitutes work in a variety of settings. The most dangerous of these is 'street walking': walking or loitering in a particular area wearing very short skirts or similar dress and waiting for clients to drive by. Street walkers gather on and around Karangahape Road and Hunter's Corner in Auckland, Vivian Street in Wellington, and Manchester Street, in Christchurch, amongst other places.

Many sex workers find employment in brothels or escort agencies. In the former, clients come to the place of business, which may be in a commercial area and fairly obvious, and sometimes attached to a strip club, or suburban and discreet. In the latter, clients phone the agency and arrange for the worker to come to their homes or motels. Typically the business will charge the worker a fee per shift, and will usually also take a set percentage of the client's fee. Some also fine workers for lateness, unprofessional conduct and other misdemenours, and most require their workers to buy their own clothes and accessories. This means that on a slow night the worker may actually lose money. However brothels and escort agencies are generally seen a preferable to street walking as it is usually safer. Although in the past some brothels and agencies had gang involvement or exploited their workers, they now appear to provide a relatively safe environment. They vary in size between 3 sex workers on duty to up to approximately 30. Brothels and agencies advertise through a range of media, including billboards, the internet, and late night television advertisements, but especially newspaper advertisements, particularly in New Zealand Truth.

Prostitutes who do not wish to work for others but also want to avoid working on the streets often set up one-woman (or one-man) brothels or agencies, commonly from their homes. Within the definitions of the act these are termed SOOB's (Small Owner Operated Brothels) They tend to rely on classified newspaper advertisements, again, particularly New Zealand Truth.

The vast majority of New Zealand prostitutes are biologically female, but there are also male and transgender prostitutes, particularly in Auckland. Both engage in 'sole operator' businesses as described above, and several male brothels and escort agencies exist. In addition, transgender street walkers are not uncommon. Male prostitutes aiming at a male clientele usually advertise in the gay newspaper Express or in Truth.

The New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective is an organisation that supports the rights of prostitutes in New Zealand, and also provides health and legal assistance, and general support. PUMP (Pride and Unity amongst Male Prostitutes) is a subsection of the collective.

In July 2006 a police officer in Auckland was reprimanded for moonlighting as a prostitute without permission, but was allowed to keep her job as she had committed no crime.

Child prostitution in New Zealand

It is not illegal for a person under 18 to be a prostitute, but it is illegal for anyone else to profit from them in this capacity, or cause, assist, facilitate, or encourage them to provide commercial sexual services to any person. Page

It is also illegal for anyone to have sex with a prostitute aged under 18, with Section 21 of the Prostitution Reform Act saying: "No person may contract for commercial sexual services from, or be client of, person under 18 years".

ECPAT New Zealand and Stop Demand Foundation have cited in a report "The Nature and Extent of the Sex Industry in New Zealand," a police survey of the New Zealand sex industry that 210 children under the age of 18 years were identified as selling sex, with three-quarters being concentrated in one Police District. It should be noted that the Prostitutes Collective of New Zealand are also opposed to child prostitution, and campaign for stronger independent youth allowances as well as other measures intended to assist younger people at risk from undertaking child prostitution as an economic necessity.

External links

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