Reflecting on New Zealand’s Prostitution Reform Act

Many in the sexworker community hold up New Zealand’s legislation as the best and therefore the one everyone should adopt. The Prostitution Reform Act of 2003 has many strengths, not least that the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective played an important part in its formulation.

The Act does have weaknesses, however, so it seems good for everyone to think about them and how they might be modified to fit other contexts. The other day I wrote about the glaringly anti-migration clause in the legislation, which is the opposite of what many activists would like to see. It’s disguised as anti-trafficking law. Links to more information on the law and the NZ Prostitutes Collective are supplied.

The interesting comments on that post centred on the law’s effects on or benefits to street workers, so I wrote about that next. 

It’s notoriously difficult to assess the effects of any law.  I’ve given a link to a report made to NZ’s Justice Department in 2008 on some early findings.  My interest is in promoting thoughtfulness about laws that regulate the sex industry: the NZ law not only decriminalises but also defines and regulates brothels. The rest of the sex industry, outside what’s considered prostitution per se, isn’t covered by the Act, as far as I can see.

Laura Agustín
Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex

Call for Volunteers Phone Banking.

Proposition K in San Francisco was put on the ballot by Sex Workers to Decriminalize Prostitution! We have until November 4th to try and convince as many voters as possible on why they should vote Yes on Prop K. We need your help calling voters in San Francisco! All you need is a phone (we have a script), and some time on your hands (you can do this from home or anywhere). Simply call or email Tara to get set up for this:

831-295-0034 or tara@swopusa.org

This is a public call for help, please send to organizers and your general list!!

Proposition K to Decriminalize Prostitution in San Francisco Endorsed by the Democratic Central Committee

When Scarlot Harlot put out the rallying call, we listened.

With only two days notice, a sizable group of sex workers, allies, and supporters showed up last night to the public testimony meeting of the DCC to solicit endorsement for the newly named Prop K. Each speaker had one minute to plea their case ranging from endorsing Eric Quezada for District 9 Supervisor (that advertising worked on my susceptible mind; I heard his name so many times I’m sold!) to a large group of mostly Asian high school students and their teachers testifying to the  importance and positive impact on students’ lives of the Junior ROTC. That was an amusing intersection for sure, as well as a depressing eye-opener; apparently the only way these children are learning life skills, self-confidence, structure, as well as getting male African American role-models (mentioned several times as 75% of the JROTC counselors or teachers or Sargents or whatever the term is are African American men) is through this military based model.

Anyhoo, the hos came out in force and had a consistent string of voices heard throughout the beginning of the clusterfuck that was the sign-up process (There was literally a yellow legal pad and a first-come, first served policy for signing up to speak, which meant that all of the speakers for all of the topics petitioned were all mixed together, and adults are not necessarily sensible nor fair about this sort of thing).  Our opposition; including Melissa Farley and her cronies, did not show up until about half way through the speakers and were still outnumbered by the impassioned assemblage of well-spoken supporters by quite a margin. Maxine Dougan videotaped the proceedings, and among the speakers were: Robyn Few, Patrasha, Lady Monster,  Maxine Dougan, Melissa Gira, Scarlot Harlot, Scarlot Harlot’s mom, Violet Palmer, Bacchus (representing the client’s perspective) as well as many other sex workers, the founder of the City Clinic, a number of lawyers and several other articulate, professional looking men to lend that special brand of validity to those who need  articulate, professional looking  men to believe the good word. I spoke and passed out several of the “Brief Lesson on San Francisco’s Historic Whores”cards,  which detail some of the contributions of sex workers throughout SF’s history.  These flyers were made for the Sex Worker Pride Float and available at the Desiree Alliance Conference in Chicago, and the panel seemed to enjoy reading them throughout the proceedings.

Despite two incidents of furor over our presence, the panel listened more or less intently and seemed to take us fairly seriously, in fact at one point one of the panel members asked for a copy of the legislation from us but no one hand one on hand.  The first incident was when a panel member spoke in the middle of the public testimony to the chair, informing him that as the chapter of the DCC for the city, they really had no jurisdiction over the prostitution decriminalization issue and were obliged to follow the lead of the decision of the California DCC, or something to that affect. Basically it seemed like this gentleman just did not want to hear any more about the measure and wanted to let us know we were barking up the wrong tree, though many of his colleagues made “what the hell is he talking about!?” and “oh, gimme a break” faces at his interruption. The second incident, which seemed somewhat juvenile, occurred after one supportive speaker brought up the point that statistically there were likely several former sex workers and former clients on the panel who couldn’t speak up about their position based on stigma. This broke the proceedings for a moment so that the majority of the panel could have a could chuckle over that ‘improbability’ and jokingly speculate, accuse and lay false claim to their involvement in the industry as sexual laborers or consumers.

At about 10pm I got the call from Scarlot that the DCC had decided to endorse Prop K, created by the Erotic Service Providers Union,  with a 18-12 vote in favor. Currently Prop K is also endorsed by the Harvey Milk Club and the Lawyer’s Guild.

I was so proud of us, thank you to all those who came and all those who spoke, we are working to set a crucial precedent.

New Interviews With Nevada Brothel Workers

The controversy about the Nevada brothel system impelled a journalist to go and interview brothel workers herself. They, not her, refute Farley’s claims. They don’t go out of their way to paint a rosy picture. Their view tends to be one like a lot of workers — the job works for them but it’s not perfect. They like the potential money. They also like the freedom to do their job without the threat of arrest hanging over their heads.

Farley is quoted in the article as wanting to stamp out legal prostitution. I don’t have a problem with that — this is the perfect opportunity for Nevada to try some decriminalization.