Sex Work Case Study

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Sex work is often perceived as morally suspect, unsafe, shady and dirty. While most countries criminalise some or all aspects of the sex industry, New Zealand was the first country to decriminalise sex work in 2003 through the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) (Jordan 2005). This paper will discuss the effects of decriminalising sex work by assessing the changes in the industry post-decriminalisation with regards to the PRA’s purpose and concerns raised by opposition. It will first provide an overview of the sex industry in New Zealand prior to 2003 and explain issues relating to the legal framework at the time. It will then introduce the PRA, its aim, and its practical implications for the sex industry. The paper will
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The paper will then conclude that the decriminalisation of sex work has positively altered the working environment of sex workers, but that this improvement is limited due to the public stigma that remains attached to the industry.

Sex workers provide sexual services in exchange for money and other valuable goods. In New Zealand, this exchange takes place at massage parlours, brothels, escort agencies, and on the streets (Abel, Fitzgerald & Bruton 2007). Though sex work itself was legal prior to 2003, the criminalisation of activities surrounding prostitution made it impossible to be a sex worker without violating the law (Jordan 2005). While the client could legally buy sex, sex workers could suffer legal consequences as legislation made soliciting, brothel keeping, and living on the earnings made through prostitution illegal (Abel 20014). The effective criminalisation of sex work prevented prostitutes from receiving the same rights as workers in other industries. Sex workers are extremely
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The PRA was passed after almost two decades of pressure from sex worker activists and groups, such as the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) (Abel et al. 2010). The PRA had been developed in consultation with sex workers and NZPC (Abel 2014). Though the PRA does not aim to promote the sex industry, it is meant to ensure that sex workers can enjoy their human rights, are free from exploitation, and that their safety and health is promoted (Prostitution Reform Act 2003). It is important to note that the PRA does not remove legislation that is meant to prevent sexual abuse, sex trafficking, or sexual exploitation of minors (Jordan 2005). For example, Section 22 of the PRA clearly prohibits purchasing sex from a minor (Prostitution Reform Act 2003). In practice, the PRA made the sex industry subject to the same health and safety regulations as any other industry (Abel, Fitzgerald, & Brunton 2007). For example, rules about workplace documents, complaint management, and even smoking in the workplace are required to be followed (Abel, Fitzgerald, & Brunton 2007). The PRA also sets out specific safety and health requirements for the sex industry (Abel 2014). Section 9 states that sex workers and clients have to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk STI
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