Mi­grant sex work­ers abused

The Dominion Post - - News - THOMAS MANCH

New Zealand must le­galise sex work for mi­grants to pre­vent hu­man traf­fick­ing, sex in­dus­try ad­vo­cates say.

An in­ter­na­tional re­port has found no hard ev­i­dence of hu­man traf­fick­ing in our sex in­dus­try, but abuse against il­le­gal mi­grant sex work­ers is widely re­ported.

Mi­grant work­ers de­scribe be­ing vi­o­lated, racially abused, over­worked and black­mailed by their clients. They are also afraid to turn to au­thor­i­ties for fear of de­por­ta­tion.

The Pros­ti­tu­tion Re­form Act 2003 bans any tem­po­rary visa holder in this coun­try from per­form­ing sex­ual ser­vices.

The re­port, pub­lished by Thai­land-based Global Al­liance Against Traf­fic In Women, says the pol­icy cre­ates con­di­tions that are con­duc­tive to traf­fick­ing, rather than pro­tect­ing against it.

Amy, a mi­grant sex worker from China in­ter­viewed for the re­port, said sex work­ers were en­cour­aged to come to New Zealand to make large amounts of money.

Clients per­ceive Asian sex work­ers as sub­mis­sive, fre­quently push­ing bound­aries and be­com­ing abu­sive, Amy said.

‘‘They will grab you and say, ‘I’m gonna do this’ and you can say ‘no’ but they won’t lis­ten to you.’’

Work­ers were said to have re­ceived mul­ti­ple threats of Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand be­ing in­formed, in or­der to ex­tort free or un­wanted ser­vices from them.

The New Zealand chap­ter of the re­port, writ­ten by Vic­to­ria Uni­ver­sity crim­i­nol­o­gist Lynzi Arm­strong, in con­junc­tion with the New Zealand Pros­ti­tutes’ Col­lec­tive (NZPC), was launched in Welling­ton last night.

‘‘All par­tic­i­pants were un­equiv­o­cal that they had not ob­served or heard of any cases of peo­ple be­ing forced to come to New Zealand to en­gage in sex work,’’ Arm­strong said in the re­port.

This was con­sis­tent with Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand (INZ) in­ves­ti­ga­tions that had found no cases of traf­fick­ing, she said.

NZPC co-founder Cather­ine Healy said there was no clear ex­pla­na­tion for a lack of traf­fick­ing, by its strict def­i­ni­tion, in New Zealand’s sex in­dus­try.

‘‘It’s been earnestly looked for. You’ll find a lot of peo­ple who say there is traf­fick­ing but when you

‘‘They will grab you and say, ’I’m gonna do this’ and you can say ’no’ but they won’t lis­ten to you.’’ Mi­grant sex worker Amy

ask them about a case they’ve dealt with, they can’t.’’

Cases of ex­ploita­tion war­ranted a re­peal of the ban against mi­grants en­ter­ing sex work, she said.

On Fri­day, Healy was con­tacted by two mi­grant sex work­ers who needed sup­port to get out of a sit­u­a­tion with as­pects akin to traf­fick­ing.

NZPC had to re­as­sure the women that im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials were un­likely to be no­ti­fied by po­lice.

A ‘‘fire­wall’’ be­tween po­lice and Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand was needed to for­malise such pro­tec­tion, she said.

Both Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand of­fi­cials and po­lice were ap­proached for com­ment on en­force­ment ac­tion.

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Iain Lees-Gal­loway said in a state­ment that cur­rent law met New Zealand’s obli­ga­tions to the United Na­tions.

‘‘I sup­port that stance be­cause I’m con­cerned that any move to re­peal [the ban against mi­grant sex work­ers] could en­cour­age sex traf­fick­ing. But I’m open to any new ev­i­dence that may be pre­sented on this is­sue.’’

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