On the 20-year anniversary of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 (PRA), which introduced a fully decriminalised system of prostitution in New Zealand, Wahine Toa Rising reflects on its dismal record.
Celebrating 20 years since the day a law was passed to “ensure sex workers safety” would definitely be a day to celebrate if it were true. Every day a “sex worker” wakes up alive to hold her children or hug her loved ones is especially something to be celebrated, because all their lives are especially valued and recognised.
However not all in the sex trade have a reason to celebrate as the PRA silences the many voices that no one hears, these being mostly women and children of colour with vulnerabilities.
Wahine Toa Rising co-founder and survivor Ally-Marie Diamond says “Many voices go unheard in this continued debate. No one is arguing that sex workers should not be decriminalised. We absolutely agree they should be. However with domestic violence, coercion and trafficking on the rise, we recognise full decriminalisation is only feeding and encouraging behaviours, especially from sex buyers, that we are all so desperately trying to erase.”
Wahine Toa Rising is a survivor-led organisation in New Zealand and Australia who support people who are being exploited in the sex trade with the majority they support being women. Diamond says, “Many women Wahine Toa Rising supports have been trafficked as children and report being too afraid to approach police for fear of reprisal from their pimps, managers, peers, and even families. Due to this fear they go unheard and unseen.
It seems the only voices taken into consideration are the voices the Government can hear, and those they can see, but how about those many voices that remain hidden. Even just over the past year we have seen many articles published in regards to many brave women coming forward because they are not being heard, working conditions being poor, women still being controlled by managers, owners. Women, men and children not being protected under PRA because they are not included or non NZ citizens, There are countless articles in New Zealand on the exploitation and violence occurring within the sex trade especially as the housing crisis worsens and homelessness numbers rise.
In an article published by Affirm Hawaii The Failure of the “New Zealand Model, the writer states “Demographics within New Zealand’s prostitution industry remain divided along racial and gendered lines – overwhelmingly women, with Maori and Pasifika disproportionately represented. Comprising roughly 16% of the population, it is concerning that Māori represent 31.7% of those in prostitution. Māori and Pasifika are more likely to be in the poorest paid and most dangerous setting – street work – than any other ethnicity (63.9% and just under 9.4% respectively). Both Māori and Pasifika are more likely to have entered the industry under the age of 16 than Pakeha (Caucasians), with Māori five times more likely: about a third of Māori participants enter under 18, with Māori twice as likely to have entered at ages 16 and 17. There are clear data gaps (the most recent data is from 2007), but based on what is known, the statistics are pretty damning.”
So as many come together to celebrate 20 years since the PRA passed let’s remember those lives that have been tragically lost, those who continue to suffer, who have no voice or have been coerced, forced. Let’s remember the children who are not counted, who are ignored and silenced. Most importantly let’s remember that our human rights are for ALL not just the few, and finally we are all worthy of so much more than being bought and sold like slaves for someone else’s sexual pleasures.
To read more survivor stories, or share your own anonymously, head over to wahinetoarising.nz
Women that need support during this time can contact us here via messenger: https://www.facebook.com/WahineToaRising