New Zealand’s ‘failed experiment’ 
with decriminalizing prostitution 
should be a warning to Canada


VANCOUVER (Embargo: July 30, 2021, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons) -- New Zealand’s failed experiment with decriminalizing prostitution should serve as a warning to Canadian politicians and activists who want this country to follow the same decriminalization path, says a Vancouver-based organization.

The warning from the Vancouver Collective Against Sexual Exploitation (VCASE) came as the group unveiled a fact-filled video outlining how New Zealand’s law that decriminalized prostitution in 2003 led to increased trafficking of women and children for sex, increased appetite for paid sex, and growth in organized crime.

VCASE also noted that Indigenous and immigrant peoples are over-represented among the persons exploited for sex in New Zealand.

“The New Zealand model is a failed experiment,” the video says. “Its social and economic costs will haunt New Zealanders for generations.”

VCASE released its video report to coincide with the United Nations’ World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, being marked July 30. This year’s campaign highlights the plight of victims of human trafficking.

The UN reports that half of the 50,000 human-trafficking victims it detected in 2018 were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Women comprise 46 percent of all trafficked persons, while underaged girls comprise a further 19 percent.

VCASE’s release of its video also follows a scathing U.S. report charging that New Zealand is not doing enough to combat human trafficking. The charge was contained in the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, made public in June 2021.

In demoting New Zealand to “Tier 2” in its international rankings of problem countries, the State Department charged that New Zealand’s government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking…”

The report continued, “the [New Zealand] government has never reported identifying an adult victim of sex trafficking and did not initiate any prosecutions for labour trafficking for the second consecutive year.” In addition, the report charged that six child-sex traffickers were sentenced only to six- to 18-month home detention, which “significantly weakened deterrence.”

VCASE is a non-partisan group of diverse individuals and organizations that have come together to end all forms of sexual exploitation. The collective advocates for the retaining, strengthening, and enforcing of Canada’s current prostitution law, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA).

PCEPA criminalizes the actions of sex buyers and exploiters, while decriminalizing the actions of individuals who sell sex. The law has been described as following the “Nordic” model of prostitution law because the framework originated in Sweden.