Sex Work Has Been Decriminalized in New Zealand for 20 years

Mar 17, 2023

Sex work has been decriminalized in New Zealand for 20 years. As a beloved subscriber to our newsletter, we really hope you know that Old Pros supports the full decriminalization of sex work in all countries. If you didn’t know, well, surprise! We support decriminalization over legalization, and there is a major difference. Decriminalization simply takes the law out of things altogether; with decriminalization, sex work is not a crime, but it’s also not legalized/regulated. A person simply cannot be criminalized for participating in sex work. With decriminalization, laws cannot be made to regulate sex work, which is good because unfortunately laws tend to be whorephobic and anti-immigrant, which obviously is not ideal for sex workers.

Okay, now that that’s all cleared up, let’s take a look at a real life example of sex work being decriminalized. New Zealand decriminalized sex work back in 2003 and things have been going really well there since then. Wow, can’t believe that all the research and lived experience from sex workers that supports the push for decriminalization has turned out to be true!

In fact, a recent interview with veteran sex worker Allan Heta Cleaver shows that pretty much all the benefits that sex workers have been insisting decriminalization would provide have happened in New Zealand. Sex workers feel safer as they can work in more open and less seedy places, have time to screen their clients without fear of being busted by undercover cops, and they also feel safe going to law enforcement to report any crimes that happen to them, such as assault and robbery. Plus, sex workers have an easier time accessing healthcare without fear of being shamed. Just as we suspected!

This is not to say that decriminalization has solved everything over in New Zealand, but it has certainly helped. Sex workers continue to experience discrimination, and stigma still exists. These things won’t go away overnight, but decriminalizing sex work gets us a step closer to a world where no one is shamed, criminalized, or denied access to the building blocks for a healthy life just because they sell sex.