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2. Estimation of the Numbers of Sex Workers in New Zealand

PLRC report - Estimation of the Numbers of Sex Workers in New Zealand

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Baseline Data From the Committee's First Report

2.3 Recent Estimates of the Numbers of Sex Workers in New Zealand

2.4 Further Advertisement Audits

2.5 Advertisements for Vacancies

2.6 Changes in the Sex Industry Since Decriminalisation

2.7 Committee's Conclusion

2.1 Introduction

Concern has been expressed that decriminalising prostitution would lead to an explosion in the numbers of sex workers in New Zealand. In its commentary on the Prostitution Reform Bill, the Select Committee noted, 'It would appear logical that the removal of criminal sanctions around prostitution means that some people who would not otherwise become involved in prostitution will do so' (Justice and Electoral Committee, 2002). Therefore, the Select Committee recommended the Prostitution Law Review Committee assess the numbers of people working in the sex industry in New Zealand at the time of the passage of the PRA. The Committee was also required to assess the impact of the PRA on the numbers of sex workers three to five years after the commencement of the PRA. This chapter fulfils that requirement.

The reason for the law reform was to neither decrease, nor increase, the number of people involved in the sex industry; but to provide sex workers the same protections enjoyed by other workers in New Zealand. Assessing any change in the numbers of people in the sex industry is intended to serve as only one indication of the operation of the PRA. There are other measures of the operation of the PRA this report covers that are directly linked to the purpose of the legislation.

Baseline estimates of the size of the sex industry were provided in the Committee's first report, The Nature and Extent of the Sex Industry in New Zealand: An Estimation (2005). To the extent that it is possible, the baseline data is compared with more recent estimates carried out for this report. Assertions about increased numbers of sex workers are also examined.

The Committee concludes, based on the research undertaken for this review, that the number of sex workers in New Zealand has not increased as a result of the passage of the PRA.

2.1.1 Caution Regarding Estimates

The Committee is confident that the research carried out for this report provides the most accurate estimate possible of the numbers of sex workers in New Zealand. However, caution must be applied to any estimate of the numbers of people involved in the sex industry. In relation to early (pre-decriminalisation) attempts to establish the numbers of sex workers, it has been noted that, 'trying to estimate the number of sex workers operating in New Zealand is as about as difficult as counting glow worms in a cave' (Jordan, 2005). Decriminalisation has removed the necessity for sex workers to conceal their occupation to avoid prosecution. However, the sex industry remains discreet and to a large extent difficult to study. Much of the workforce is self-employed and may only be involved in the industry sporadically or for a short time. The Committee wishes to emphasise the difficulty of accurately assessing the number of people involved in the sex industry, even in the current decriminalised environment.

The Committee's first report noted, 'caution must be used when interpreting the findings in this report. They cannot be taken to be an accurate assessment of the size of the sex industry in New Zealand. However, they are useful in providing an indication of the approximate numbers of those working in the sex industry in New Zealand' (PLRC, 2005). The limitations of the methodologies used to estimate numbers of sex workers, and the altered nature of the industry post law reform, should be kept in mind when comparing the current findings with those in the Committee's first report. Direct comparisons between pre- and post-decriminalisation figures are possible only for Christchurch where an estimation using comparable methods was undertaken in 1999 (CSOM, 2007).

2.2 Baseline Data From the Committee's First Report

2.2.1 Survey of New Zealand Police

The Committee's first report estimated the number of people involved in the sex industry before the PRA (PLRC, 2005). Information for the estimate was gathered via a survey of Police officers with knowledge about the sex industry in each of the twelve Police Districts. Police drew on information from the registers of sex workers compiled under the Massage Parlours Act 1978, and from contacts with newspapers and advertisers. The survey was undertaken between October 2003 and February 2004, but informants were asked to provide a picture of the sex industry as close to June 2003 as possible.

It was estimated there were a total of 5,932 sex workers in New Zealand. A cautious approach should be taken to these findings given the retrospective nature of the survey and the variable level and quality of Police information on the sex industry. For instance, Police from the Counties-Manukau District were unable to provide estimated numbers of sex workers, therefore figures for this district were extrapolated from figures based on New Zealand population statistics.

In addition, the Police registers did not provide a totally accurate picture of the sex industry in each district. Names were not removed from the register when a person stopped working. Because the registers were cumulative, they provided an inflated view of the size of the industry. Police who took part in the survey noted the fluid nature of the industry and the substantial crossover between sectors. However, due to the limitations of the data available, it was not possible to avoid double counting people who worked in more than one sector of the industry (for example street and ship, or massage parlours and escort agencies).

Table 1: Numbers of Sex Workers by Police District and Sector of Sex Industry, Prostitution Law Review Committee, 2005

  Sector of Sex Industry
Police District Street Massage Parlour Escort Rap/Escort parlour Private Ship Total

Northland

0

14

14

0

5

0

33

North Shore

0

68

0

28

2

0

98

Auckland City

360

1880

400

400

350

0

3390

Counties Manukau

150

100

18

-

155

0

423

Waikato

0

0

1

60

40

0

101

Bay of Plenty

2

60

16

3

53

10

144

Eastern

0

45

36

4

15

8

108

Central

0

102

32

13

145

0

292

Wellington

50

119

1

6

224

0

400

Tasman

0

0

25

5

12

5

47

Canterbury

75

211

50

50

132

10

528

Southern

0

30

15

28

295

0

368

Total

637

2629

608

597

1428

33

5932

Police estimated that there were 383 sex businesses across the country at the time of decriminalisation: 189 massage parlours, 101 escort agencies, and 93 rap/escort parlours. It was estimated that there were around 200 sex workers under the age of 18 and over half (60%) of this group were located in the street sector.

2.2.2 First Advertisement Audit

The Committee's first report also included an audit of advertisements for commercial sexual services carried out by the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective (NZPC). Advertisements appearing in newspapers, the Yellow Pages, and on websites were counted on four randomly chosen Fridays between July 2003 and May 2004.

The newspapers chosen were the New Zealand Herald (Auckland), Truth (Auckland), and The Dominion Post (Wellington). Chinese language newspapers (the Mandarin Times, New Times and Chinese Herald) were also searched on the day chosen in May 2004.

There are limitations with using advertisements to estimate the number of sex workers operating. An advertisement may refer to an individual worker or a business where several workers are employed. Payment is usually required for newspaper advertisements, therefore only the services of sex workers who are currently working are likely to appear. However, advertisements on websites tend to be free to the advertiser. Unless the advertiser advises the webmaster to remove the advert because they are no longer working, the advertisement may remain on the website indefinitely, leading to artificially inflated figures.

In the counting process, precedence was generally given to regular paid advertisements in newspapers, then the Yellow Pages, then websites. Because of the order in which advertisements were taken, some publications, such as Yellow Pages, appear to have very few advertisements, despite having a moderate number of actual advertisements printed or published. This is because only the advertisements that have not already been recorded are listed under that publication. For example, if a person is advertising in The Truth, The Herald, The Northern Courier, the Yellow Pages and sexinnz.co.nz, only one advertisement will have been recorded under their entry in The Truth. The numbers given for each publication are therefore the number of advertisements for commercial sexual services not appearing in any other publication. Where possible, advertisements from the same person (using a different name and/or phone number) appearing in the same publication were identified and not double counted.

The May 2004 audit counted 531 advertisements in Auckland, compared to 469 in July 2003, representing an increase of 13%. As noted above, Chinese language newspapers were only included in the May 2004 count. In addition, a new website started operating in early 2004 and was also included in the May 2004 count. If these two additional sources are discounted, the final figure for the Auckland region is an increase of 21 advertisements (4%).

In Wellington, the number of advertisements remained stable at 151 over the period. However, if the Chinese language newspapers and the new website are discounted, the final figure is 145, a decrease of 4%.

2.3 Recent Estimates of the Numbers of Sex Workers in New Zealand

As part of its report on the impact of the PRA on the health and safety practices of sex workers, the CSOM undertook two estimations of the numbers of sex workers in New Zealand. In addition, further audits of advertisements for sexual services were carried out by NZPC in 2006 and again in 2007.

Since decriminalisation, Police no longer maintain registers of sex workers, and resources previously used to monitoring the sex industry have been reallocated. Therefore, the methodology used to estimate the number of sex workers in the Committee's first report cannot be repeated. In addition, decriminalisation has altered the nature of the sex industry. The Committee's first report included numbers of workers in six different sectors of the industry: massage parlours, private workers, street workers, escort agencies, rap/escort parlours and ship workers. Since decriminalisation, these distinctions are no longer relevant as massage parlours, rap and escort parlours operate as brothels. Therefore, the CSOM study divided the sectors of the sex industry between street-based, managed, and private indoor workers. The term 'managed worker' refers to the previous categories of massage parlour, escort and rap/escort parlour workers.

2.3.1 Estimation of Numbers of Sex Workers

The first estimation of numbers of sex workers carried out by the CSOM took place over a two week period in February and March of 2006. The regions covered were Christchurch (Christchurch City, including outlying suburbs, but not the wider Canterbury area), Wellington (including Porirua and Hutt Valley), Auckland (Orewa in the north to Papakura in the south), Nelson (Nelson City, excluding the wider Nelson Bays area), and Hawke's Bay (including the cities of Napier and Hastings).2 Different enumeration strategies were adopted for different sectors of the industry: managed (brothel), private indoor workers, and street-based.

Information on numbers of workers in brothels was collected by NZPC outreach workers during their regular visits to distribute safe sex supplies and educational information. Businesses not in contact with NZPC were also asked to provide information on the number of workers they employed; however the accuracy of these estimates cannot be confirmed.

NZPC estimated numbers of private workers via analysis of advertisements in the 'Escort' or 'Adult Information' columns of the local daily and community newspapers and on the Internet for a two week period in February. The same methods were used as for the advertising audits done in 2003-4. Again, phone numbers and names were compared to identify people advertising under different names or using multiple phone numbers. When phone calls were made to check the validity of advertisements, workers were also asked if they were private indoor workers or street-based to avoid double counting.

Estimates of numbers of street-based workers were provided by outreach workers from NZPC (and Youth and Cultural Development (YCD) in Christchurch) through head counts in the field, both before and after midnight on several busy nights over the two-week period. The outreach workers know most of the street-based sex workers personally, therefore the chance of double counting was reduced. When outreach workers were aware of street-based workers who also advertised on the web, their details were removed from the list of private indoor workers.

Christchurch and Wellington outreach workers included street-based workers in the final count who they knew were working, but who were not present when head counts were undertaken. Auckland outreach workers did not do this and therefore, the recorded numbers of street-based workers in this city is likely to be an underestimation.

Table 2: Estimation of Numbers of Sex Workers in Five Areas of New Zealand in February/March 2006

  Private Indoor Workers Street workers Managed Workers Total workers

Auckland

551

106*

856

1513

Christchurch

90

100

202

392

Wellington

140

47

190

377

Hawke's Bay

42

0

32

74

Nelson

27

0

13

40

Total

850

253

1293

2396

* Estimation of Auckland street-based workers is likely to be an underestimation

The number of sex workers in Auckland in 2006 (1,513) was less than half that estimated at the time of decriminalisation (3,390). Wellington (377 vs. 400) and Christchurch (392 vs. 5283) also had fewer numbers than were reported in the Committee's first report. The CSOM study concluded 'estimations within the different locations of the research would suggest that previous figures were an overestimation.'

The majority of sex workers in the areas canvassed work in the managed sector (1,293). In Auckland, 57% of sex workers worked in the managed sector, Christchurch 51% and Wellington 50%. The private sector was smaller in Christchurch (23%) than in either Auckland (36%) or Wellington (37%). In the smaller towns, the majority of sex workers worked privately and there were no street-based workers.

The CSOM also found that 11% of the sex workers worked on the street. As a proportion of sex workers, street-based work represented 7% of the industry in Auckland, while in Wellington it represented 13% and in Christchurch 26%.

2.3.2 2007 Re-estimation

A second estimate of the size of the sex industry in the five locations was carried out in 2007. For most centres, the same techniques as those used in 2006 were again employed. However, as noted above, in 2006 Auckland outreach workers did not include street-based workers known to be working but not seen on the nights counts were done. In 2007, the count in Auckland was conducted in the same manner as the Wellington and Christchurch counts in 2006 (and again in 2007).

Table 3: Re-estimation of Numbers of Sex Workers in Five Areas of New Zealand in June-October 2007

  Private Indoor Workers Street Workers Managed Workers Total Workers

Auckland

476

230

745

1451

Christchurch

89

121

192

402

Wellington

121

44

224

389

Hawke's Bay

28

0

37

65

Nelson

17

0

8

25

Total

731

395

1206

2332

2.3.3 Auckland Results

The increase in numbers of street-based workers in Auckland in 2007 can be partially explained by the different methodologies used to estimate numbers of street-based workers in 2006 and 2007. However, the CSOM study also notes that the Auckland outreach workers had seen an increase in the number of sex workers on the street in the six to eight months prior to June 2007. The Auckland NGO 'Streetreach' report an increase in street-based sex workers in Auckland between August and November 2007 (Streetreach, 2007).

It is unlikely the increased numbers in the Auckland street-based sector in 2007 can be explained by the simultaneous decrease in numbers of people working in both the managed (from 856 to 745), and private sectors (from 551 to 476). Information from the qualitative interviews undertaken by the CSOM indicates there is little movement from the street sector to other sectors of the industry.4 Of current street-based workers 78.8% reported starting sex work in the street sector. Few street-based workers started in the managed sector (18.4%) and even fewer started working privately (2.8%) (CSOM, 2007). The overall numbers of sex workers in Auckland decreased over this period, despite the suggested increase in the street-based sector.

2.3.4 Comparison with 1999 Christchurch Study

The CSOM study compared the 2006 findings from Christchurch with an identical study done in Christchurch in 1999 (Plumridge and Abel, 2000). Accurate comparisons were only possible for Christchurch, as the other centres were not included in the 1999 study.

The CSOM found total numbers increased slightly from 375 in 1999, to 392 workers in 2006. The number of street-based sex workers decreased from 106 in 1999, to 100 in 2006. 'Prior to decriminalisation, Christchurch had a higher proportion of street-based workers than other centres in New Zealand. This remains unchanged following decriminalisation. As a proportion of the sex industry in Christchurch in 1999, street-based workers comprised 28% compared to 26% in 2006' (CSOM, 2007).

There appears to be a trend of Christchurch workers moving from the managed sector to the private sector. In 1999, the managed sector comprised 62% of the sex worker population in Christchurch and the private sector 10%. The comparable figures in 2006 were 51% and 23% respectively.

Table 4: Estimations of Sex Workers in Christchurch in May 1999 and February 2006

  Private Indoor Workers Street Workers Managed Workers Total Workers

Christchurch May 1999

36

106

233

375

Christchurch February 2006

90

100

202

392

2.4 Further Advertisement Audits

The advertising audits carried out by the NZPC in 2003-04 (for the Committee's first report) were repeated in Wellington and Auckland in July 2006 and again in July 2007. As far as possible, the same methods were used for each audit.

The figures for 2003 (below) are slightly different from those published in the Committee's first report. It was necessary to revise the 2003 figures because a small number of 0900 numbers advertising phone sex only were inadvertently included in the count of Auckland advertisements. In addition, several businesses that had advertised under different names were identified as having been double counted. A few other counting errors were found when the figures were re-examined.

In 2007, scrutiny of the sources, particularly websites, identified a high proportion of invalid advertisements where the phone had been disconnected or relocated, or the person being advertised had never worked, or no longer worked in the sex industry. Both the total number of advertisements and the number of valid advertisements are included, demonstrating how simply scanning the newspapers or web for adult entertainment advertisements can present a very misleading picture of the size of the sex industry.

Table 5: Wellington Commercial Sexual Services Advertisements 2003-2007 by Source

WELLINGTON: By Source 2003 2006 2007 Total 2007 Valid

Dominion Post

64

55

61

61

Yellow Pages

1

5

0

0

Home Voice

0

0

0

0

Community newspapers

0

0

0

0

express

0

0

0

0

newzealandgirls.co.nz

-

17

7

7

pinkmoon.co.nz

-

-

0

0

himorher.com

-

4

3

3

nzR18.co.nz

-

-

9

8

escort-ENZ.com

-

-

2

2

escortnz.co.nz

-

19

-

-

nzblondes.co.nz/brunettes

-

-

0

0

asianbabes.co.nz

-

-

0

0

nzguys.co.nz

-

-

0

0

sexinnz.co.nz

65

40

105

32

pleasure.co.nz

21

-

-

-

sexnow.co.nz

0

-

-

-

Total

151

140

187

113

Table 6: Wellington Commercial Sexual Services Advertisements 2003-2007 by Type

WELLINGTON: By type 2003 2006 2007 Total 2007 Valid

Strippers

2

0

0

0

Private

113

120

158

102

Parlour

18

15

14

8

Agency

18

5

15

3

Total

151

140

187

113

Table 7: Auckland Commercial Sexual Services Advertisements 2003-2007 by Source

AUCKLAND: By source 2003 2006 Total 2006 Valid 2007 Total 2007 Valid

NZ Herald

22

3

3

98

98

Truth

201

168

168

176

176

Yellow Pages

64

16

16

0

0

Chinese Herald

0

0

0

0

0

Mandarin Times

0

0

0

0

0

New Times

0

0

0

0

0

Community papers

0

0

0

14

12

express

0

0

0

0

0

newzealandgirls.co.nz

-

109

109

35

35

nzR18.co.nz

-

-

-

61

61

pinkmoon.co.nz

-

-

-

8

8

himorher.com

-

30

30

7

7

escortsnz.co.nz

-

9

9

-

-

escort-ENZ.co.nz

-

-

-

14

14

nzadult.co.nz

-

5

5

2

2

nzblondes.co.nz/brunettes

-

-

-

18

18

asianbabes.co.nz

-

-

-

2

2

nzguys.co.nz

-

-

-

8

8

sexinnz.co.nz

142

138

41

289

32

pleasure.co.nz

32

61

61

-

-

sexnow.co.nz

0

-

-

-

-

Total

461

539

442

732

473

Table 8: Auckland Commercial Sexual Services Advertisements 2003-2007 by Type

AUCKLAND: By type 2003 2006 Total 2006 Valid 2007 Total 2007 Valid

Strippers

0

3

3

0

0

Private

346

447

389

627

422

Parlour

48

59

32

79

42

Agency

67

30

18

26

9

Total

461

539

442

732

473

Australia

-

-

-

(3)

(3)

Advertisements from strippers were counted only if they provided both stripping and sexual services, but were not part of a brothel. Stripping services that were attached to a brothel were not counted twice. In 2007, all stripping clubs stated they provided stripping services only and did not provide commercial sexual services.

Three Australian-based sex workers were advertising in New Zealand, intending to fly to New Zealand for a booking of a value greater than $1000. Their advertisements have been noted, but because it is very unlikely they would be hired due to the cost, they have not been included in the totals.

2.5 Advertisements for Vacancies

The Department of Labour monitored advertised job vacancies in the sex industry from 2002 to 2006, and monthly from January 2007 to April 2007. The numbers of advertised vacancies fluctuated (between 12 and 43 vacancies during the period monitored), but the overall trend was for the number of advertised vacancies in the sex industry to remain fairly stable (Department of Labour, 2007). The Department's Job Vacancy Monitoring Programme stopped monitoring vacancies in the sex industry because the decision was made to exclude all commission-only jobs from the programme. Information received by the Department indicated the sex industry pays solely on commission.

Some brothel operators report difficulty attracting staff to work in brothels, making it necessary to continuously advertise for staff (CJRC, 2007). Some brothels have closed down with operators citing the lack of staff and increasing competition for workers because of sole operators/SOOBs, as reasons for the failure of their business (NZ Herald, 18 November 2006, and 19 January 2008).

Comment

A proliferation of advertisements, either for the provision of sexual services, or for vacancies in the industry, does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of people involved in the provision of commercial sexual services. Multiple advertisements from sex workers or brothels are common, and may at first glance be interpreted as originating from separate providers. One of the consequences of decriminalisation is a more open industry, with fewer restrictions on advertising (discussed below) which may contribute to an increase in the number of advertisements for sexual services. However, as the research demonstrates, the numbers of people advertising commercial sexual services in Wellington and Auckland have remained stable, or declined since the enactment of the PRA.

2.6 Changes in the Sex Industry Since Decriminalisation

2.6.1 Advertising Practices

Prior to decriminalisation, Police requested that newspapers not accept advertisements for adult entertainment columns unless the advertiser was registered with the Police. Most daily newspapers complied with this system, limiting the possibility for people to freely advertise their services (Jordan, 2005). Since the repeal of the Massage Parlours Act 1978 (PRA, 2003), Police no longer require sex workers to register with them. Newspapers accept adult entertainment advertisements based on editorial policy, which may include prohibiting certain explicit wording. Advertisers may also have to provide proof of age in order to advertise in the adult entertainment section of a newspaper. Policies about proof of age vary across publications; some require an application in person with photo ID, others do not inquire as to the age of the advertiser.5

2.6.2 Technology

Developments in communications technology have increased the ease with which commercial sexual services can be advertised. Increasing uptake of mobile phones has meant sex workers can have multiple phones and provide different phone numbers for each publication.

The proliferation of 'chat lines' and the use of the Internet have meant people can directly contact each other and negotiate terms without needing a conduit such as a newspaper or brothel operator. In addition, the Internet has allowed people to advertise sexual services on multiple websites, again using any number of names and phone numbers, creating the impression of a greater choice of service providers.

2.6.3 Decriminalisation as a Reason for Entering the Sex Industry

A quarter of respondents to the CSOM quantitative survey said that one of the reasons for entering the sex industry was that it was no longer illegal. However, few sex workers who took part in the qualitative interviews cited decriminalisation as the reason, or a major reason for entering the sex industry. The main reasons for entering the sex industry remained financial.

Workers who had considered the legal status of sex work were not asked whether they would have entered the sex industry if it was still illegal. Therefore, it is not possible to know whether decriminalisation precipitated their entry, or whether they would have started sex work regardless of its legal status.

In its commentary on the Prostitution Reform Bill the Select Committee noted that, regardless of whether the Bill was passed, some people would consider prostitution a legitimate profession and some people would not. Given the relatively static numbers of sex workers pre- and post-PRA, the Committee considers decriminalisation has not become a significant factor in people's decisions to enter the sex industry.

2.6.4 Claims that Numbers Have Increased

The Committee is aware of reports claiming the numbers of sex workers, and in particular street-based sex workers, have increased as a result of decriminalisation. Addressing these claims

forms a substantial part of this chapter. Often, the increases have been reported in general terms, based on impressions, rather than citing actual numbers. One exception is the claim that the numbers of street-based sex workers in Auckland increased by 400% as a result of decriminalisation. This claim cannot be substantiated, and was not based on systematic or robust research.

The figure of a 400% increase has been re-reported several times, demonstrating the ease with which opinion can be perceived as 'fact'. In his speech to the House during the second reading of the Manukau City Council (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill, Gordon Copeland MP attributed the report of a 400% increase to the Maori Wardens' submission on the Bill in 2006. The Maori Wardens may have been influenced by an article in the NZ Herald in 2005 in which Mama Tere Strickland was reported to say, 'Numbers have quadrupled since that Bill [Prostitution Reform Act]' (New Zealand Herald, 2005).

A 400% increase in the numbers of sex workers was predicted prior to the passage of the PRA, and was also claimed in relation to the law reform in New South Wales. This may be the original source of the idea that numbers of sex workers will, or have, increased by such a margin as a result of law reform. Officials advising the Select Committee were unable to find any statistical evidence to support the claim. In addition, the Select Committee noted that 'there may appear to be a growth in the industry because it becomes less hidden in nature' (Select Committee, 2002).

In the Committee's first report, the number of street-based sex workers in Auckland was estimated to be 360 (PLRC, 2005). An increase of 400% would mean there would now be 1,440 sex workers on Auckland's streets. The Committee considers that the research undertaken by the CSOM conclusively refutes an increase of this magnitude, with the 2007 figures estimating the number of Auckland street-based sex workers at 230.

2.7 Committee's Conclusion

In the Committee's first report, it was estimated that there were 5,932 sex workers in New Zealand at the time of decriminalisation. The current report estimates the number of sex workers to be 2,332. The Committee does not consider that this means the numbers of sex workers in New Zealand have declined by 3,600 over five years. Rather, the different estimates are the result of the limitations of the initial data collection methods, and the more robust methodology used to estimate numbers in the current report. Although the recent estimates were drawn from a smaller geographical area than the estimates in the Committee's first report, the main urban areas of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are covered in both estimates. The effect of excluding the smaller urban centres and rural district in the current estimates is considered to be minimal.

The Committee notes the information suggesting an increase in the numbers of street-based sex workers in Auckland during 2007. The apparent increase can be partially explained by the different methodologies used to estimate numbers of street-based sex workers in 2006 and 2007. The Committee considers it is too early to say whether the apparent increase is an upward trend, or the result of normal fluctuations in a fluid industry. The Auckland street-based sector has unique characteristics due to its location in New Zealand's largest and fastest growing city. However, not enough is known about how Auckland's street-based prostitution areas operate to definitively say what might cause numbers of workers to fluctuate. Based on the available research, the Committee is confident the enactment of the PRA is not a major causal factor in the increase in street-based workers in Auckland in 2007.

Arguments that decriminalisation has increased the numbers of people in the sex industry are largely founded on the flawed assumption that decriminalisation would increase the numbers of people involved in prostitution. The Committee is satisfied that such assumptions have been proved to be unfounded.

One of the consequences of decriminalisation has been the illumination of the workings of an industry which have historically been hidden. Sex workers and brothel operators can now be more open about their occupation. Similarly, street-based sex workers are now able to be more visible since soliciting in a public place is no longer illegal.

Greater visibility of the sex industry is not indicative of growth of that industry. Further, the Committee considers increased visibility to be a desirable consequence of decriminalisation for those who are most at risk in the industry, namely street-based workers and under age people involved in prostitution.

Accurately counting the number of sex workers remains difficult. However, the Committee endorses the findings of the CSOM that the enactment of the PRA has had little impact on the numbers of people working in the sex industry.

Recommendations

The Committee considers ongoing counting of the numbers of sex workers may be necessary to monitor the impact of the PRA. The current review has been undertaken after a relatively short period, and the long-term impact and operation of the PRA have not been assessed. Keeping track of the numbers of people involved in the sex industry will benefit any future assessment of whether the PRA is achieving its purpose.

Continuing to monitor the numbers of sex workers will also prove useful in any investigation into the influences on people entering or exiting the industry. The Committee supports the undertaking of longitudinal studies to better understand reasons for entry, involvement in, exit and/or re-entry into the sex industry.

Monitoring numbers of sex workers may also be necessary for the evaluation of programmes designed to assist people to leave the industry, or the performance of agencies tasked with delivering such programmes. However, as smaller programmes may have little impact on the numbers of sex workers overall, monitoring the progress of the individuals enrolled would provide a better indication of the programmes' efficacy.6

The Committee recommends NZPC maintains the databases of street-based sex workers created by outreach workers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch for the Committee's review. The Committee also recommends NZPC continues to monitor numbers of brothel-based workers and SOOBs to provide an ongoing record of the numbers of people involved in street-based sex work. NZPC reports it intends to continue both the databases and ongoing monitoring.

The Committee also recommends that any future research into prostitution in New Zealand focuses on the health and safety of sex workers, their employment status, and human rights, rather than solely the numbers of people involved in the industry.


Footnotes

2. Note, these areas do not correspond to the Police Districts used in the Committee's first report.

3. The PLRC estimate was for the larger Canterbury area, including South Canterbury, which was excluded from the CSOM study's estimation.

4. 49.3% of current private indoor workers reported starting work in the managed sector, as opposed to only 11.5% who started in the street sector. Only 3.9% of current managed workers reported starting work in the street sector.

5. For example, The Press and The Dominion Post will not accept advertisements for the adult entertainment section of the classifieds unless the advertiser places the advert in person and provides photo identification. By contrast, The New Zealand Herald does not require any proof of age to place adult entertainment advertisements and will accept advertisements over the telephone or via the internet.

6. As noted elsewhere in the report (Chapter 5), there are currently no programmes specifically designed to assist people to avoid working in or exit the sex industry.

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