99% of those who advocate an end to prostitution do so from a position of believing it is morally wrong for sex workers to sell sexual services. Oh they hide it behind claims of caring about trafficking, or child abuse or the murder of sex workers, but the facts do not bear them out. They lump together so many things that are already criminal with sex work, ignoring labour trafficking, working conditions in the third world, the millions of women trapped in domestic slavery (and this is slavery) because as every campaigner knows, sex sells.
So they stand hand in hand with the religious groups who want to ban same-sex marriage and oppose abortion, because they share the same goal, control over the bodies of women of whom they do not approve.
IS there another way, is there a model that doesn’t say you have to agree with sex work, but that you want sex workers to be safer, to have full protection under the law, to have the same employment rights as any other worker? Why, thank you, there is, it is working, and it is in New Zealand.
In 2003 The New Zealand Prostitutes collective won the biggest victory for the human rights of sex workers the world has ever seen. All of the laws around sex work that criminalized it, made our lives less safe, prosecuted us and our partners, pushed us into a criminal underworld if we wanted to work in a brothel, gave abusive police power over us, were removed. I am going to quote heavily from their website, you can read more here.
The Prostitution Reform Act was passed on 25 June 2003. The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective pushed to have these new laws, and designed the new laws over time with input from very many sex workers. The original Bill was changed as it went through a three year Parliamentary debate. As a result, we didn’t get all that we wanted. The Act is designed to:
(a) safeguard the human rights of sex workers and protect them from exploitation;
(b) promote the welfare and occupational health and safety of sex workers:
(c) be conducive to public health:
(d) prohibit the use in prostitution of persons under 18 years of age; and
(e) implements certain other related reforms.
The Act is available online at the New Zealand Legislation: Acts site. In pull down menu, scroll down to “P”, open that and scroll down toProstitution Reform Act 2003.
The old laws meant that you could be fined or imprisoned if you:
- solicited for the purposes of prostitution (up to $200 fine);
- kept a brothel (up to 5 years in prison);
- lived on the earnings of prostitution (up to 5 years in prison);
- procured anyone for the purposes of prostitution (up to 7 years in prison).
The UK has many similar laws, it is legal to be a sex worker, but our partners can be arrested as our pimps (because feminist influenced legislation cannot conceive of a hetro man who isn’t abusive) and sex workers who work together for safety can be arrested for controlling each other. The act went further than just removing bad laws though.
You have the right to refuse to have sex with a client for any reason, or for no reason. No one- including managers, receptionists, minders, clients, other workers, etc., can force you to have sex with a client, even if he has paid. Managers cannot fine you for refusing a client- it is against the law for them to do so.
Operators, clients and sex workers must take all reasonable steps to “ensure a prophylactic sheath (condom) or other appropriate barrier is used if those services involve vaginal, anal, or oral penetration or another activity with a similar or greater risk of acquiring or transmitting sexually transmissible infections”. Failure to do so can mean a hefty fine. This means that everyone should use a condom and/or dental dam for vaginal, oral and anal sex.
Sex workers actually have lower rates of STDs than the general population, and higher rates of condom usage. However this law protects sex workers in NZ who may feel pressured into going bareback.
Up to four sex workers can work together and do not need an Operators Certificate, so long as no one is in charge of anyone else, or working as a boss. If there are more than four sex workers working together, as equals, one will have to apply for an Operators Certificate.
It should be obvious to anyone that just as other occupations like estate agent for example, advise female workers not to be alone with men they don’t know, this is a protection many sex workers would like.
The NZ model is not perfect, under great pressure from the US it has had to say only NZ citizens can be sex workers, denying the right of migrant workers to travel there. The racist assumptions of the rescue industry are huge and center around infatantalising WoC. This also has led to NZ citizens who are not white being denied work, and being stopped more often for police checks. However one thing it does do is make sex workers, and in particular women, safer.
The provision of human rights to sex workers through the decriminalisation of the sex industry has led to the minimisation of harm to New Zealand sex workers.
We exist, we are going to go on existing, women choose sex work for a million and one reasons, and as Sweden shows will continue to do so even when criminalized. The question everyone needs to ask, which side am I on, harm reduction or harm promotion? Do you want to see more dead whores on the altar of feminist theory or safer workers?
- New Zealand’s model of sex work respects rights (thestar.com)
- Decriminalisation: A harm minimisation and human rights approach to regulating sex work. (sexworkresearch.wordpress.com)