Everyone loves New Zealand and New Zealanders. It's the land of the kiwi, Middle Earth, great rugby, and the indigenous Maori.
In 2003, New Zealand decriminalized the buying and selling of sex. By fully decriminalizing buyers, pimps, and brothels, New Zealand tried to create a safe, legal space for prostitution. Police were no longer permitted to inspect brothels.
Brothel operators were invited to register, and a criminal record was not necessarily a barrier. Pimps became business managers. Small owner-operator brothels of four or less persons, known as SOOBS, were exempted from registration and oversight. The new law was heralded by the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective as a step forward for sex workers.
Yet, in 2004, New Zealand appeared on the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report for the first time due to a significant number of trafficking victims. In 2005, and in the years since, the report warns New Zealand about a sizeable number of children in prostitution.
New Zealand's indigenous and immigrant peoples are over-represented. Gangs and criminals have prospered by exploiting loopholes in the law. SOOBS have popped up everywhere and in any neighbourhood. Local governments can't stop them. Most years, brothel inspections have been lacking or non-existent. Since police can't visit brothels without a formal complaint, their tools for combatting trafficking are critically limited.
New Zealand's government has kept its head in the sand regarding its internal and external trafficking crises. Like other countries who have decriminalized sex buying, New Zealand has grown its appetite for paid sex. Growth in the market means more women and children will be exploited to feed that demand.
The New Zealand model has normalized the coercion and exploitation of women and children. Sexual violence continues. Exiting prostitution remains difficult. The deep scars of trauma are the life-long consequence. The New Zealand model is a failed experiment. Its social and economic costs will haunt New Zealanders for generations.
Canada has the better law. Let's keep and enforce it.
The US State Department began publishing the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in 2001. Currently it ranks countries into four tiers, and in the 2021 TIP Report, New Zealand dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2. For a brief explanation of the tiers, visit the Wikipedia page.
"While the government convicted offenders in more cases of child sex trafficking than in previous years, it did not identify any victims in these cases as trafficking victims, as it did not use a system to specifically designate individuals as trafficking victims, and many officials and service providers lacked an understanding of all forms of trafficking; this weakened victim protection and may have undermined the ability of the government to recognize current trafficking trends in the country. Furthermore, the government has never reported identifying an adult victim of sex trafficking and did not initiate any prosecutions for labor trafficking for the second consecutive year. In addition, the failure to sentence the majority of traffickers to terms of imprisonment, with six child sex traffickers sentenced to terms ranging from six to 18 months’ home detention [NZ source: There were five, not six, men charged; despite media headlines, none faced sex trafficking charges (the most grave charge was ‘sexual exploitation of a young person’ under the Prostitution Reform Act); and while four were sentenced to home detention, the principal offender was actually given a lengthy prison sentence - 7 years and 10 months, with no parole.], significantly weakened deterrence, undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, and did not adequately address the nature of the crime. Therefore New Zealand was downgraded to Tier 2."
"Despite prosecuting suspects for crimes that constitute child sex trafficking during the reporting period, the government reported that it did not identify any sex trafficking victims. The government has never certified a foreign victim of sex trafficking and despite evidence that adults, particularly female victims of family violence, were forced into commercial sex in New Zealand, the government has never identified an adult New Zealander as a victim of sex trafficking."
"While experts assessed the Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalized commercial sex for New Zealand residents, overall increased protections for those who willingly engaged in commercial sex, traffickers continue to target vulnerable populations, such as children, migrants, and adult victims of domestic and family violence, for exploitation in sex trafficking. Foreign women from Asia and South America in commercial sex are at risk of sex trafficking, especially those who do not speak English and who work in private homes, and informal or suburban environments where they are more isolated from service providers. Some international students and temporary visa holders are at risk of sex and labor trafficking. Immigration brokers and unscrupulous brothel owners subject some migrants to conditions indicative of sex trafficking, including non-payment of wages, withheld passports, physical or sexual abuse, threats of deportation, monitored movements, limiting access to medical care or other social services, and excessive working hours. Some migrants are required to pay fines, bonds, recruitment and other fees to brothel operators or brokers, which make them vulnerable to debt based coercion. Traffickers utilized Section 19 of the PRA [Prostitution Reform Act], which prohibited non-residents from legally working in the decriminalized commercial sex industry to use threats of deportation or other adverse action from law enforcement to deter migrants in commercial sex from reporting verbal or physical abuse, unwanted or unsafe sexual practices, or non-payment of wages. Some gang members, boyfriends, family members, or others exploit young children and teenagers in sex trafficking by facilitating, purchasing, or forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts. Some adult women, often those who face domestic or family violence, are forced by partners to engage in commercial sex acts. Some victims are coerced into commercial sex through drug dependencies or threats by family members. One service provider reported that a notable proportion of its clients reported being forced into commercial sex by their partners in order for their partners to purchase or obtain drugs and other substances. However, experts suggest the prevalence of forced commercial sex among New Zealand women is significantly under-reported and under-detected."
"As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Canada, and traffickers exploit victims from Canada abroad. Women and children from indigenous communities, migrants, new immigrants, LGBTQI+ persons, persons with disabilities, at-risk youth, runaway youth, and youth in the child welfare system are at high risk for trafficking. Traffickers lure girls and young women, including some who are not socially or economically disadvantaged, into deceptive romantic relationships and exploit them in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit Canadian victims within and across the country, and sometimes abroad, mainly in the United States. Traffickers exploit foreign women, primarily from Asia and Eastern Europe, in sex trafficking in Canada."