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How New Zealand Sex Workers and Their Allies Shaped Decriminalisation in New Zealand

23 March 2021

Publication Date
23 March 2021

Original Abstract

Introduction: This article provides insight into a rare instance of a collaborative governance approach to sex work that led to the decriminalisation, design and implementation of the sex work policy governance framework in New Zealand with the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.

Methods: Drawing on a sample of 17 interviews conducted between the years 2012 and 2019 in addition to associated archival material originating from government and non-government sectors including sex worker representative organisations.

Results: It finds that non-sex workers’ endorsement for the decriminalisation of sex work was motivated by the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) and occurred primarily within a human rights and harm minimisation framework. But that during the lobbying and parliamentary process, amendments to the Bill emerged that contradicted the NZPC’s main goal which was for sex work to be recognised as a legitimate labour activity and for all sex workers to benefit from decriminalisation and policy reform.

Conclusions: As such, this article broadens the scope of analysis related to the sex worker rights movement by examining how and why sex workers and their allies came to communicate and act on the impetus for sex work law reform and how it affected policy outcomes.

Policy Implications: Those involved in collaborative governance sex work law reform projects could consider adopting Östegren’s typology of repressive, restrictive or integrative approaches to sex work law reform in negotiations that concern regulation and policies.

Aroney, E. (2021). Changing Minds and Changing Laws: How New Zealand Sex Workers and Their Allies Shaped Decriminalisation in New Zealand. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-021-00564-z

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sex work, decriminalisation, sex worker rights movement, New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, movement allies, collaboration


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