Vice Squad
Monday, April 18, 2005
The New Zealand Sex Industry

One of the consequences of vice prohibition is that information about the extent and nature of the criminalised activity becomes degraded. People often aren't all that eager to discuss their vices in any event, but when their behavior is criminal, they are less likely to be forthcoming. So one advantage from the 2003 liberalisation of prostitution in New Zealand is that the size of the sex industry may be somewhat easier to gauge. The liberalising act required that this advantage be pressed, by mandating an initial survey of the sex industry, with later follow-ups to track changes. That initial assessment is now available.

The information was gathered by surveying police officers and by auditing advertisements for sexual services. The findings listed in the Executive Summary are sufficiently interesting that I will reproduce them in full. (These are the findings drawn from the police survey alone; there are separate findings for the ad audit):
* A total of 383 sex businesses were identified across New Zealand. Massage parlours represented the highest number of businesses (189) followed by escort agencies (101) and then rap/escort parlours (93).

* A total of 5,932[footnote deleted] sex workers were identified over the areas canvassed. Sex workers employed in massage parlours constituted nearly half of all sex workers (44%). Private workers followed in numbers accounting for 24% of sex workers. Street workers represented 11% of those working in the sex industry and sex workers in rap/escort parlours and escort agencies accounted for 10% each of the sex industry.

* Not surprisingly, sex businesses were concentrated in the Auckland Police District. There were comparatively few businesses in other police districts. Street workers were concentrated in the main centres and in particular in Auckland City and Counties-Manukau districts.

* Respondents estimated that on average 30% of street workers were transgender or transsexual. In comparison only 4% of private workers, 1% of escort agency workers and 1% of rap/escort parlour workers were identified as transgender/transsexual. Male sex workers were found primarily working on the streets, privately, or in escort agencies.

* It was estimated that there were around 200 sex workers under the age of 18 and over half (60%) were located in the street sector.

* Non-New Zealand sex workers were considered to be a significant issue in the greater Auckland area. These workers were predominantly from Thailand and China but other Asian countries were also represented.

* About a quarter of police respondents answered affirmatively when asked about exploitation of sex workers in their area. Forms of exploitation included a system of bonds and fines, use of drugs, and unreported crime against sex workers.

* About half of the police areas or districts responding to the survey indicated that they had a police officer with a portfolio dedicated to prostitution. However, in most of these cases the proportion of a person’s full-time portfolio dedicated to prostitution was very small. Police role included liaison, licensing/vetting of massage parlours, registration of sex workers and investigation of complaints.
The Ministry of Justice also prepared a helpful literature review on the New Zealand sex industry.

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