Prostitution and Human Trafficking 
in New Zealand - Aotearoa

A Video Short by VCASE on Prostitution and Human Trafficking in New Zealand

Everyone loves New Zealand and New Zealanders. It's the land of the kiwi, Middle Earth, great rugby, and the indigenous Maori.

In 2003, New Zealand decriminalized the buying and selling of sex. By fully decriminalizing buyers, pimps, and brothels, New Zealand tried to create a safe, legal space for prostitution. Police were no longer permitted to inspect brothels.

Brothel operators were invited to register, and a criminal record was not necessarily a barrier. Pimps became business managers. Small owner-operator brothels of four or less persons, known as SOOBS, were exempted from registration and oversight. The new law was heralded by the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective as a step forward for sex workers.

Yet, in 2004, New Zealand appeared on the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report for the first time due to a significant number of trafficking victims. In 2005, and in the years since, the report warns New Zealand about a sizeable number of children in prostitution.

New Zealand's indigenous and immigrant peoples are over-represented. Gangs and criminals have prospered by exploiting loopholes in the law. SOOBS have popped up everywhere and in any neighbourhood. Local governments can't stop them. Most years, brothel inspections have been lacking or non-existent. Since police can't visit brothels without a formal complaint, their tools for combatting trafficking are critically limited.

New Zealand's government has kept its head in the sand regarding its internal and external trafficking crises. Like other countries who have decriminalized sex buying, New Zealand has grown its appetite for paid sex. Growth in the market means more women and children will be exploited to feed that demand.

The New Zealand model has normalized the coercion and exploitation of women and children. Sexual violence continues. Exiting prostitution remains difficult. The deep scars of trauma are the life-long consequence. The New Zealand model is a failed experiment. Its social and economic costs will haunt New Zealanders for generations.

Canada has the better law. Let's keep and enforce it.

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