Vice Squad
Monday, December 06, 2004
Prostitution, Britain, and New Zealand

Prostitution per se is legal in Britain, though related activities like streetwalking and solicitation are not legal. Britain is in the midst of looking anew at its prostitution policies, with an eye towards creating managed zones where streetwalking would be tolerated and services provided to prostitutes, and possibly even to licensing brothels. A gathering of sex workers took place in London last weekend, for the purpose of discussing desirable reforms. Some sex worker groups, such as the English Collective of Prostitutes, believe that the proposed liberalisations do not go far enough -- they support complete decriminalisation instead.

New Zealand recently decriminalised prostitution. Catherine Healey, of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective (NZPC), attended the London meeting:

Ms Healey, a former primary school teacher, says she and her NZPC colleagues started the campaign for decriminalisation out of a sense of injustice.

"I was charged with soliciting but contested it because a conviction sticks with you and inhibits your movement in and out of the sex industry. It certainly shut the door on teaching for me, not that I minded."

Now they are no longer members of an illegal industry, sex workers have a lot more personal security and bargaining power, Ms Healey says.

"Since the change in the law, people feel they can approach the police and report violence. And it has changed the dynamics between sex workers and clients."

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