Current Law

The Current Law in NZ

As in other countries, New Zealand sex workers work in a variety of settings, including visible street prostitution and the invisible indoor market in brothels and saunas, as well as for escort agencies and as independent workers.

Prostitution and minors

Underage involvement in the sex industry continues to be a controversial issue in New Zealand, both before and after the passage of the PRA in 2003, with conflicting claims of its extent or relationship to the PRA.

Child prostitution is illegal. The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 reads as follows:

Prohibitions on use in prostitution of persons under 18 years 20.

No person may cause, assist, facilitate, or encourage a person under 18 years of age to provide commercial sexual services to any person. 21.

No person may receive a payment or other reward that he or she knows, or ought reasonably to know, is derived, directly or indirectly, from commercial sexual services provided by a person under 18 years of age. 22.

No person may contract for commercial sexual services from, or be client of, person under 18 years

(1) No person may enter into a contract or other arrangement under which a person under 18 years of age is to provide commercial sexual services to or for that person or another person.

(2) No person may receive commercial sexual services from a person under 18 years of age. 23. Every person who contravenes section 20, section 21, or section 22 commits an offense and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years.

(2) No person contravenes section 20 merely by providing legal advice, counselling, health advice, or any medical services to a person under 18 years of age.

(3) No person under 18 years of age may be charged as a party to an offense committed on or with that person against this section.

Thus, it is legal for a person under 18 to be a sex worker, but it is illegal for anyone else to profit from them in this capacity, or cause, assist, facilitate, or encourage them to provide commercial sexual services to any person. It is also illegal for anyone to purchase sex from a person aged under 18. The media are likely to require photographic ID before placing advertisements to ensure they are complying with this law. The defence of "reasonableness" has been removed, but sex workers appearing under age may be asked by Police to provide proof of age.

However, there appears to be no law prohibiting a person under 18 from being a client of a prostitute, thus the legal age for this would presumably be 16, the legal age of consent in New Zealand.

Prostitution Reform Act 2003

During the 1990s calls for decriminalisation intensified. There was a growing public awareness of the sex industry, and the NZPC continued to strengthen support for decriminalisation. [1] Interest in law reform increased with various members of Parliament voicing concern with the current law, and in 1994 the NZPC worked with others to draft a model law to meet the needs of sex workers. In 1997 a womens forum was held and a group was formed to work on a bill. This group included representatives from the NZPC, Young Womens Christian Association, National Council of Women, and the AIDS Foundation. The following year members of Parliament visited New South Wales, Australia, where in 1995 most forms of sex work had been decriminalised. One of these members was Tim Barnett, whose Prostitution Reform Bill was introduced in Parliament during September 2000.

The Prostitution Reform Bills purpose was to decriminalise such activities and make prostitution subject to special provisions in addition to the laws and controls that regulate other businesses. This purpose was not intended to equate with the promotion of prostitution as an acceptable career option but instead to enable sex workers to have and access the same protections afforded to other workers. The Bill, as introduced, had the stated aims of:

  • Safeguarding the human rights of sex workers.
  • Protecting sex workers from exploitation.
  • Promoting the welfare and occupational safety and health of sex workers.
  • Creating an environment conducive to public health.
  • Protecting children from exploitation in relation to prostitution.

In 2000 a personal vote that the Bill be read a first time was passed by 87 votes to 21. Of 221 submissions to the Justice and Electoral Committee, approximately 41 percent generally supported the Bill, 56 percent were generally opposed and 3 percent were neutral. The Justice and Electoral Committees 2002 report recommended by a majority that the Bill be passed with amendments. Following the report, the second reading occurred where a personal vote was passed by 66 to 52 votes. Important changes were made to the Bill during its passage through Parliament. For instance, a system of certification for brothel operators was included along with provisions prohibiting people on limited entry visas working or investing in prostitution businesses. Part four which established the Prostitution Law Review Committee (the Committee) and statutory review was also included. A personal vote in 2003 that the Bill be read a third time was passed 60 votes to 59, with one abstention.

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