The release of an official report on the effects of decriminalisation of prostitution in New Zealand has confirmed that it has had the expected positive effects (although of course it is by no means a panacea).
The number of sex workers has not increased, and workers reported that they knew about their rights, felt more able to say “no” to acts they did not want to perform, and that there had been some improvement in protection from violence.
The report was based on studies by the Christchurch School of Medicine and Victoria University’s Crime and Justice Research Centre, and the committee chaired by a former assistance police commissioner, so it would have to be, I’d suggest, treated with respect. (Although experience suggests that it won’t be.)
The government release on the subject adds:
The report shatters several myths with the following findings:
• Coercion is not widespread.
• Sex workers are more likely to be the victims of crime, rather than offenders.
• The links between crime and prostitution are tenuous and the report found no evidence of a specific link between them. The link between under-aged prostitutes and youth gangs is often a case of underage people hanging around with friends who happen to be in youth gangs.
• The reasons people joined and stayed in the sex industry are complex, however money was the main reason.
• Fewer than 17 per cent said they are working to support drug or alcohol use, although when broken down by sector street-based sex workers are more likely to report needing to pay for drugs or alcohol (45 per cent).
• The perceived scale of a ‘problem’ in a community can be directly linked to the amount and tone of media coverage it gets.
• Much of the reporting on the numbers of sex workers and underage involvement in prostitution has been exaggerated.
• There is no link in New Zealand between the sex industry and human trafficking.
The complete report can be found here.
Oddly, despite regular excited coverage about the “Swedish model” of criminalising the clients of prostitutes (of which the government there has refused any serious academic scrutiny whatsoever), there’s been no media coverage of this outside New Zealand that Google News can locate. There’s not even been much coverage in New Zealand – although perhaps that reflects the fact the decriminalisation has been widely accepted in the country.