Overview of sex work laws in New Zealand

In June 2003, New Zealand became the first country to decriminalise sex work with the passage of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) 2003. Although, prostitution, as such, had not been illegal in New Zealand before the PRA, practically everything associated with it - soliciting, brothel keeping, living on the earning, and procuring - had been. The Parliamentary Justice and Electoral Select Committee found that prior to the PRA, for most forms of sex work, it was likely a law would be broken at some stage.

Sex workers were arresed and convicted for soliciting for the purposes of prostitution in a public place, which also included indoor venues, such as massage parlours, and outdoor street based sites.

Proprietors of massage parlours and escort agencies, whose main business was organising commercial sex, were charged with brothel keeping, living on the earnings, and procuring, and usually sent to prison.

The shift that occurred in 2003, resulted in decriminalising sex work, with the following aims:

The purpose of this Act is to decriminalise prostitution (while not endorsing or morally sanctioning prostitution or its use) and to create a framework that

(a)safeguards the human rights of sex workers and protects them from exploitation:

(b)promotes the welfare and occupational health and safety of sex workers:

(c)is conducive to public health:

(d)prohibits the use in prostitution of persons under 18years of age:

(e)implements certain other related reforms


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