24 Oct 2012

UN report praises New Zealand's prostitution laws

7:03 pm on 24 October 2012

A United Nations report indicates New Zealand's prostitution laws are working and even improving public health and human rights.

The UN Development Programme's Sex Work and the Law paper assesses how policies and law enforcement affect the rights of sex workers and handling of HIV in 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific.

The study looks at places with punitive practices such as confiscating condoms, requiring compulsory or coerced HIV testing, and denying sex workers access to government services.

However, it praises New Zealand and New South Wales which have decriminalised sex work.

It says defining sex work as legitimate labour empowers sex workers, increases their access to HIV and sexual health services, and is alsoassociated with very high condom use rates.

The report says removing legal penalties for sex work helps HIV prevention and treatment programmes to reach sex workers and their clients.

The Prostitutes Collective's national co-ordinator says it was a huge struggle to decriminalise sex work in New Zealand, but the UN report shows it was worth it.

Catherine Healy says it has taken a long time for New Zealand to confidently say it has all the elements right to protect the legal rights of prostitutes.