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Unfinished decriminalization: The impact of section 19 of the prostitution reform act 2003 on migrant sex workers’ rights and lives in aotearoa New Zealand

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posted on 2021-07-05, 06:28 authored by C Bennachie, A Pickering, J Lee, Paola Gioia MaciotiPaola Gioia Macioti, N Mai, AE Fehrenbacher, C Giametta, H Hoefinger, J Musto
In 2003, Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) passed the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 (PRA), which decriminalized sex work for NZ citizens and holders of permanent residency (PR) while excluding migrant sex workers (MSWs) from its protection. This is due to Section 19 (s19) of the PRA, added at the last minute against advice by the Aotearoa New Zealand Sex Workers’ Collective (NZPC) as an anti-trafficking clause. Because of s19, migrants on temporary visas found to be working as sex workers are liable to deportation by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). Drawing on original ethnographic and interview data gathered over 24 months of fieldwork, our study finds that migrant sex workers in New Zealand are vulnerable to violence and exploitation, and are too afraid to report these to the police for fear of deportation, corroborating earlier studies and studies completed while we were collecting data.


This study was supported by the SEXHUM (Sexual Humanitarianism: understanding agency and exploitation in the global sex industry) Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC CoG 682451). More information about the SEXHUM project is available in its website: (accessed on 1 May 2021). Support for Dr. Fehrenbacher was also provided by a center grant at the UCLA Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment Services (NIMH MH058107), a training grant at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior (NIMH T32MH109205), and a training grant at the University of California Global Health Institute (UCGHI) from the NIH Fogarty International Center (FIC D43TW009343). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the ERC, NIH, FIC, or other funders.


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