Green Light District
New Zealand’s “liberalisation” of the world’s oldest profession is, according to the Economist, a success story, where in 2003 the magazine writes, “that country decriminalised the sex trade with a boldness that exceeded that of the Dutch. Sex workers were allowed to ply their trade more or less freely, either at home, in brothels or on the street.” Though the red lights may be going out all over Europe – including England and Wales where people will soon be liable to prosecution for “paying for sex with someone forced into prostitution… or controlled for another’s gain” – they’re certainly still green in New Zealand. Government statistics show that 60 per cent of prostitutes felt they had more power to refuse clients than they did before. The report reckoned that only about 1 per cent of women in the business were under the legal age of 18, and only 4 per cent said they had been pressured into working by someone else. Prostitutes keep all their earnings, which gives them freedom to reject nasty clients and unsafe practices. “They feel better protected by the law and much more able to stand up to clients and pushy brothel operators,” says Catherine Healy, head of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.