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Differing brothel bylaws could be putting sex workers at risk

The country's differing brothel bylaws could be putting sex workers at risk, the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) has claimed.

They say restrictive regulations are forcing sex workers to operate illegally, which runs the risk of workers being mistreated by clients going unreported.

The NZPC has pinpointed three cities which are putting sex workers' safety at risk, including Upper Hutt, Hamilton and Queenstown.

New Zealand sex workers' rights activist Dame Catherine Healy said, "Upper Hutt is a lovely place. However, it has very unlovely - a very unlovely approach to sex workers and there aren't many."

"There's only a handful of sex workers in this part of the country, and all of those sex workers are possibly working in breach of the bylaw, because simply, there aren't places to work inside the bylaw."

Bylaws here include restrictions on where sex workers can work, how they can work and who they can work with.

A breach of these bylaws in Queenstown or Hamilton could come with a $20,000 fine, despite the fact that in 2003, fining workers for soliciting on the streets was revoked at a national level.

Associate Professor Gillian Abel from University of Otago said, "The danger with bylaws is they contradict the intentions of the Prostitution Reform Act, which is to safeguard the health and safety and occupational health of sex workers".

But the councils disagree with Associate Professor Abel's concerns.

"I don't agree at all. We have bylaws that reflect the desires of our residents, which we adopted in 2011, reviewed in 2017 and we've carried on with those," Queenstown mayor Jim Boult said.

Change could be on the way, with Upper Hutt set to review its bylaws next year. However, for those changes to be effective, there are calls for the safety of sex workers to be at the forefront of any discussions.

"Sex workers are a part of the community, actually, you have to reflect on who visits them as well. And you know, these are activities between consenting adults, so we would like to know that sex workers in any part of Aotearoa are going to be safe," Dame Catherine said.

"There's always going to be a stigma around sex work but I think the stigma is lessening and I think people are more willing to engage. Engagement is the key," Associate Professor Abel added.

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    They say the bylaws are inconsistent with the prostitution reform. Source: 1 NEWS