The 2003 Prostitution Reform Act decriminalised sex work in New Zealand. Sex workers, brothel operators and third parties are no longer criminalised and now have equal access to justice, health and employment rights just like anyone else.
by Fraser Crichton
The voices of New Zealand sex workers might appear as remote by distance as New Zealand from Europe, but their experiences of working under decriminalisation are vital to the policy debates around prostitution reform in countries far, far from New Zealand.
During September and October 2016 I worked with the peer led New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC) on a video based research project about sex workers’ rights and the decriminalisation of sex work in New Zealand.
Over the next few months we will share a series of short videos that give a sense of who New Zealand sex workers and activists are and how the decriminalisation of sex work has improved their lives.
In this series Catherine Healy, Dr Calum Bennachie and Chanel Hati (all from NZPC) talk about issues around decriminalisation and the real complaints sex workers have. Ahi Wi-Hongi, a current worker, talks about safety and how the Prostitution Reform Act improved the lives of Māori and transgender workers. They all talk about how criminalising clients threatens workers’ rights.
To provide a broader context I also interviewed non-sex workers. I spoke with Jason Hewett, formerly from the New Zealand Police, about the relationship between sex workers and the police; Dr Annette Nesdale from the Health Ministry of Health (New Zealand) about access to health services; Dr Lynzi Armstrong from Victoria University about violence against sex workers and Jan Logie from the New Zealand Green Party MP for a feminist perspective on decriminalisation.
This collaborative project uses text and video to amplify sex workers’ voices and explore issues that they see as globally important to their community. All of the content will be shared with NZPC and available on Vimeo in the next few months.
One motivation for this project is that right now in Scotland, England and South Africa legislators are debating policy on sex work. Policy makers need to see that the laws they are drafting affect real people, because as Calum Bennachie says,“They are the ones that are living that life.”
Special thanks to Catherine, Calum, Ahi, Chanel, everyone I met through NZPC, Dr Lynzi Armstrong and also to Annah Pickering for the opportunity to go on outreach in South Auckland.
Fraser Crichton is a Scottish documentary photographer and writer. He works on long term personal documentary projects in a variety of media including writing, photography and video. He is currently working a longterm project exploring and supporting sex worker’s rights.