Migrant Workers Denied Entry into the Sex Trade Despite UN's Call for Inclusion

New Zealand
#workvisa #immigration

In an ongoing saga of human rights, the sex industry in New Zealand refuses to embrace inclusivity. Despite recommendations from the United Nations and the country offering multiple work visa including Essential Skills Work Visa and Accredited employer work visa, migrant workers are still barred from participating in this profession. 

Migrant Worker Exclusion: Government Maintains Status Quo

The Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which forbids non-citizens and non-residents from working in the sex business, has been amended by the New Zealand government, on the recommendation of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). 

The UN Committee voiced grave concerns about Section 19's possible detrimental effects, particularly for migrant women who might be vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation yet are unwilling to disclose abuse because they fear deportation.

In response, the Ministry for Women stated that there were no continuing efforts to amend the current laws in their most recent Periodic Report to CEDAW. The Prostitution Reform Act of 2003, according to the Ministry, attempts to protect sex workers' human rights while lessening harm and decriminalising prostitution. 

In order to prevent vulnerable people from entering the nation to engage in sex work, it also restricts the provision of commercial sexual services to citizens and holders of certain visas. Based on variables including socioeconomic background, command of the English language, and familiarity with New Zealand law, this protection is warranted.

The administration recognised the difficulty of the situation and stated that it must be weighed against other objectives, such as immigration laws. The Ministry stated that future evaluations may take this issue into account, even though no immediate revisions are in the works.

Activists' Disappointment and Call for Change

The petition against Section 19 was started by activist and sex worker Pandora Black, and now has over 1,300 signatories. Black's appeal was sent to CEDAW so that the government of New Zealand may evaluate it. 

New Zealand sex workers' rights activist, Pandora Black - Migrant Workers Denied Sex Trade

Disappointed, Black said, "If I've learned anything from my involvement in this cause and industry activism in general, it's that very few of those who represent us, whether that be on a national or global scale, have enough of a spine to enact meaningful change or show real empathy for the most marginalised in our community."

She maintained that the idea that sex work and human trafficking are related is out of date and underlined the significance of labour and immigrant rights in this regard. She emphasised that immediate action was required because, in the absence of reforms, sex workers—especially those who are migrants—may be subject to increased risk and exploitation.

Academics and Experts Call for Change

A Massey University lecturer who has studied the sex industry extensively, Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith, voiced displeasure at the government's lack of action. Easterbrook-Smith underlined that individuals should regard sex work like any other profession and outlined the various motivations for sex work, such as the present problem in the cost of living.

"They have heard this from sex workers, they have heard this from academics, and they have heard this from the UN. It is abundantly evident that action is required", stated Easterbrook-Smith.

Immigration Law Specialist Alastair McClymont noted that companies actively seek out foreign workers who are able to enter the nation without a visa, proving that the laws do not prevent people from entering the field. The demeaning search procedure that certain women go through in New Zealand airports was also highlighted by him, and he described it as "just awful."


What was the Ministry of Women's response to the United Nations' recommendations?

Aiming to reduce harm and decriminalise prostitution while safeguarding the human rights of sex workers, the Prostitution amend Act was mentioned by the Ministry for Women in their report on the lack of continued attempts to amend the current laws.

What difficulties can migrant sex workers encounter as a result of these legislative limitations?

It is possible for migrant sex workers to experience abuse, discrimination, and exploitation. Because they worry about being deported, which could have long-term effects on their wellbeing, they could be reluctant to disclose such instances.


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