Mapping the Health and Safety of Female Sex Workers after the Prostitution Reform Act (2003): Human Services Perspectives and Responses

By Maria-Victoria Pérez-y-Pérez.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social and Community Studies

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On 27 June 2003 the New Zealand Parliament passed a unique piece of legislation, the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA), effectively decriminalising prostitution. The momentum for the Act came from the desire to minimise harm and risk for sex workers through the promotion of human rights, and the welfare and occupational health and safety of workers in the sex industry. The passage of the PRA in 2003 required a redefinition of the governance of prostitution that would fit within a work and rights framework. When prostitution was illegal, the police were the key social control agent. However, when prostitution was decriminalised, the governance of sex work was distributed among central and local government departments, NGOs, grassroots, and community groups. This reconfiguration of governance highlights the inherent controversies and tensions involved in a mix of top-down/bottom-up governance of sex markets. This paper will present findings from an empirical study undertaken in Christchurch in 2010/2011. The study set out to map the understandings, practices, and processes of NGO human services as they negotiated decriminalisation and their new roles as regulators of the sex work industry, promoting a sanctioned harm minimisation approach to governance that aimed to ensure the rights, health, and safety of sex workers and balance public concerns of social control.

Keywords: Sex Work, Decriminalisation, NGO, Stigma, Governmentality

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social and Community Studies, Volume 11, Issue 4, December 2016, pp.29-45. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 846.524KB).

Dr. Maria-Victoria Pérez-y-Pérez

Lecturer, Coordinator of the Human Services Undergraduate and Postgraduate Programmes, School of Social and Political Science, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand