The Impact of Prostitution Legislation on Violence and Trafficking in the Sex Industry


Jill McCracken, PhD | September 20 | 4:00-5:00 PM

Topic: Research, International | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate | Location: TBD

This session presents a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project in consultation with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective. Legislation directly impacts and harms people’s experience as a result of participating in particular behaviors and activities. Having decriminalized prostitution in 2003 as a result of the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA), New Zealand is an ideal location to explore how legislation impacts violence and trafficking in the sex industry. The presentation begins with overview of the different models used to legislate prostitution around the world and explains the differences between sex work and trafficking. The data shared from this CBPR project is based on three months of field work in New Zealand and interviews with 33 sex workers and 34 individuals who work closely with sex workers (including brothel operators, clients, social service agents, health professionals, and others, many of whom were also sex workers or had been sex workers in the past). Specifically, this presentation provides information from sex workers and individuals who work with sex workers and victims of exploitation to explain: 1) How harms are reduced and/or perpetuated in an environment where prostitution is decriminalized; 2) Examples of how sex workers are able to recognize, prevent, resist, and recover from violence, and the strategies they use to reduce violence and trafficking; 3) How sex workers control their work to greater and lesser degrees; 4) Legislative policy recommendations based on the perspectives of those most directly impacted by these legislative models; and 5) Limitations of the research, as well as areas where additional research is needed.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Explain the differences between sex work and trafficking/exploitation in the sex industry

·  Provide a clear understanding of the different legislative models related to sex work: criminalization, partial criminalization, legalization, and decriminalization and their impact on violence and trafficking in the sex industry

·  Discuss what decriminalization looks like in New Zealand (the only country in the world that has decriminalized prostitution) based on the perspectives of those most directly impacted by these legislative models and how it impacts violence and trafficking in the sex industry

About the Presenter