New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective—An Example of a Successful Policy Actor
2. Data and Methods
3.1. The NZPC—A Key Actor in New Zealand’s Prostitution Policy
… we had to strategize the key messages and a lot of it was that we had to talk about our own experiences and come out of the closet to politicians. That was really hard and there was a lot of crying…you know, we had politicians crying…cause it’s the human stories that touch people…I said to them, ‘if I was your daughter…what would you do? There is so much injustice in the law and if I was your child, wouldn’t you want the law to protect me?’
…like anything education and communication is critical for people to work together…It is just breaking down those barriers. Police uniform is sort of quite scary, because it is very authoritative, and often when police are dealing with the street workers it is late at night so to have someone like Anna to come out and sit down and have a general discussion to take questions it is very enlightening for the police staff then to look at how they might operate with those particular girls.
It’s really important when you are advocating for sex workers and policy that you have credible research that backs up the evidence and looks at different frameworks of decriminalisation and legalisation and legislative and non-legislative approaches, what works and what doesn’t in other countries.
They do all that grassroots, connecting with people really, really well but they are also a respected organisation. That’s their strength…The other main strength is that they prioritise sex workers’ rights, that is really, really important.
3.2. Factors Contributing to the Success of the Organisation
3.2.1. Political and Legal Mobilisation: ‘Our Beating Heart Is Related to Rights!’
I didn’t experience bad conditions, but I know that the police came in and came in undercover, and arrested someone as working. And I thought, ‘Why is that happening, that’s really wrong!’ And everyone was really scared and it made me very angry. Just to think that could really happen, it felt wrong. So we started talking amongst each other…
We didn’t have the language of law reform at all, but we knew it was wrong, that the laws were wrong…From the beginning, we wanted to get the law changed. And we had to, you know, push back quite hard. We threatened to hand our funding back [gained for HIV prevention programmes], actually we said ‘we’re going back underground!’ We were deadly serious, you know.
In the law, PRA, we have five points…and one of the first is around safeguarding the human rights of sex workers. You know, you have to write that in the law and say it because some people don’t think that sex workers are human, have human rights, they think you are just nothing, or, you know, you go missing, who cares? And if you don’t have that written in the law where are you going to stand as a person?
We cannot be a service organisation. I think a service organisation for sex workers is no service at all, it’s horrible. It takes your beating heart away. And you know our beating heart is related to rights.
3.2.2. Solidarity (in) Diversity: ‘It Is a Big Family!’
3.2.3. Committed Membership and Leadership and Stable Resources: ‘Quite a Unique Case’
Catherine’s got huge respect from many sectors around the country…She came across as educated, articulate, incredibly sensible and down to earth, she just seemed so ordinary, so lots of people’s stereotypes were challenged by who she was…So much of the NZPC success…so much of how and why the group got such support, was how credible she came across to others, how eminently reasonable, you know, and just able to respond very calmly to some very nasty attacks that were made…
NZPC is quite a unique case…A lot of it comes back to Catherine…She is really politically savvy and I think that her role has been really instrumental in creating that respect that people have got for them. I mean Calum is amazing as well…there are so many people there…They’re just really good at connecting with people, but I think Catherine had a lot to do with the status they now have. She is willing to go and have a conversation with anyone…
They were so involved and so determined, you know, they were involved in writing, drafting and what not…and lobbying that they did was hugely beneficial…Their role was really fundamental…The way they operate is quite unique and I think they were really smart in terms of how they lobbied and made relationships with other organisations because they had other voices with them.
3.2.4. Wide Alliances: ‘Having Tentacles in so Many Different Networks!’
3.2.5. New Zealand’s Socio-Political Context: ‘Ethos of Fairness’
I have heard it directly from the politicians in the UK that New Zealand is so different. But it is not that different. And the themes that run through, the anti-lot comes up with the same sorts of things to oppose legislative reform, the things are the same.
Conflicts of Interest
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These are the movements in France (the occupation of the Saint-Nizier church in Lyon, Association Nationale de Prostitueés), the Netherlands (Red Thread), the USA (Coyote), and the International Committee for Prostitutes Rights. For the activities of non-Western organisations, see Kampadoo and Dozema (1998), and for the sex workers’ rights activism in Europe, see Dziuban and Stevenson (2015).
The law enhances the autonomy of sex workers and the protection from exploitation. Under the law street-based sex workers can operate without any restrictions; up to four sex workers can operate together as equals before any person needs a manager/operator’s certificate; and only if someone oversees one other (or more) sex worker(s) is a certificate needed. The use in prostitution of persons under 18 is prohibited.
Sex workers’ demands for decriminalisation of sex work and the recognition of sex workers’ rights have also been supported by several United Nations agencies, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (Global Network of Sex Work Projects 2016; Dziuban and Stevenson 2015).
I was fortunate enough to attend and present at the NZPC symposium (Wellington, 12 February 2016) which enabled me to meet more of the NZPC staff, volunteers, and members as well as health officers and brothel operators. Furthermore, I attended a meeting with police, staff of the Child, Youth and Family agency, and youth workers in Auckland, as well as a meeting with the police in Wellington. I also went to a homeless shelter with the Auckland coordinator to secure accommodation for a pregnant street worker and I attended street outreach activities in Christchurch. These experiences enabled me to gain a greater understanding of the organisation.
I first spoke to the coordinators of the offices who then introduced me to other people in the office, and I then interviewed all those who volunteered, and that included all the employees who were present at the office during the time of my field work.
Gillian Abel from the University of Otago, Christchurch and Jan Jordan and Lynzi Armstrong from the Victoria University of Wellington.
Ahi, for example, got involved when she was organising a feminist conference, which included the topic of sex work, and came to the NZPC to seek advice. Chanel was recruited as she was known for her role in helping young transsexual street-based sex workers. Many employees first volunteered with the organisation, including the national coordinator, Catherine.
The board is diverse and includes people of different genders (cis and transsexual women), ethnicities (white European and Maori), and sex markets (street and indoor).
Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Duredin, Tauranga, Palmerston North.
According to the national coordinator of the NZPC, Catherine, the business arose out of their concern for the lack of good and accessible lubricants, as important products for safe sex practices.
Prior to 2003, indoor prostitution in New Zealand was governed by the Massage Parlours Act 1978, which allowed brothels to operate in the guise of massage parlours. However, as the Act defined massage parlours as public places, laws against soliciting in a public place applied to workers in parlours, and they were sometimes raided and entrapped by police posing as clients. Workers in the parlours were also required to provide their names and addresses to the police. Advertising the sale of sex (‘soliciting’), running a brothel, and living off the earnings of prostitution were illegal.
In October 2000, the Bill received its First Reading, and was passed by 87 votes to 21. It was then submitted to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, which heard a number of public submissions. The committee made numerous amendments to the Bill. The Second Reading, held after the 2002 General Election, passed by only 64 votes to 56. The third reading was held on 23 June 2003, and the Bill passed with 60 votes for, 59 against and one abstention (Barnett et al. 2010).
Most significant amendments include the prohibition of work by non-nationals and criminalisation of sex workers who do not practice safer sex practices.
The Act (Part I Preliminary Provisions, 3. (a) Purpose) states: The purpose of this Act is to decriminalise prostitution (while not endorsing or morally sanctioning prostitution or its use) and to create a framework thatsafeguards the human rights of sex workers and protects them from exploitation…
The framework built on the values of autonomy, equality, and dignity of all human beings, which establishes rights as entitlements against the governments, as codified in international human rights and national constitutions and bills of rights.
Catherine, for example, approached Maori transsexual street-based sex workers to join the organisation.
On the other hand, Abel et al. (2007) note that stigma is still present.
On the other hand, Van der Poel believes that it is the ‘sex workers who have the best qualifications to bridge the social chasm’ and who must take over the image formation in order to challenge stigmatisation (Van der Poel 1995, p. 63).
He is of the opinion that the failure to find a right politician to join the struggles of powerful sex workers rights movement in the UK is the reason for its failure to affect change in law.
Tim Barnett notes that decriminalisation of sex work was seen as one of the crucial measures in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The Australian State of New South Wales also has a decriminalisation model, but this model is more problematic from the point of view of the human rights of sex workers, as it, for example, puts restrictions on street-based sex work.
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Radačić, I. New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective—An Example of a Successful Policy Actor. Soc. Sci. 2017, 6, 46. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6020046
Radačić I. New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective—An Example of a Successful Policy Actor. Social Sciences. 2017; 6(2):46. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6020046Chicago/Turabian Style
Radačić, Ivana. 2017. "New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective—An Example of a Successful Policy Actor" Social Sciences 6, no. 2: 46. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6020046