Home Activism The Racism of Decriminalization

The Racism of Decriminalization

New Zealand's supposedly decriminalized sex worker heaven is hell for migrants.

“Place of Power.” (Painting by author from her finite gestures series)

Since I began writing this piece, both Scarlet Alliance and SWOP NSW have issued an apology to migrant sex workers for their part in the SEXHUM research. This is an unprecedented move in the right direction for peer organizations. I hope that there will be more attempts in the future to empower migrants and POC, including Aboriginal sex workers, toward self-advocacy. I also hope that in the future, such a statement and its denunciation of non-peer-led research will be initiated by organizations without the need for heavy internal and external pressure from migrant sex workers first. Indeed, I hope that no statements like this are necessary in the future because this complicity with typically unethical outsider-led research will cease to occur in the first place.

As sex worker activists we love pointing fingers at the anti-trafficking industry, whorephobic art and media, and researchers with save-the-whore complexes. Yet, the sex worker activist movement itself is similarly stigmatizing towards migrant POC sex workers. Our movement has promoted the New Zealand decriminalization model for decades without being critical of New Zealand’s criminalization of migrant workers. The global sex workers’ rights movement heralds decriminalization at all costs, while often overlooking the racism involved in its partial implementation. The argument is that decriminalization of sex work will end stigma and benefit all workers equally. However, POC migrant sex workers (PMSW) still experience stigma, raids, and racism within the purported decriminalized sex worker heavens of New South Wales, Australia and New Zealand.

In NSW, there’s been extensive research done on POC migrant sex workers headed by white researchers, such as the SEXHUM by Nic Mai and the Lash report, that aims to prove that we aren’t victims of “trafficking.” This research is as racist and intrusive as the trafficking narrative itself. Firstly, these are all white researchers studying POC, perpetuating the colonialist studying of the “other.” Secondly, this research promotes the idea that white researchers are the holders of migrant sex workers’ knowledge and truth rather than placing importance on listening to migrant sex workers directly.

Applying this scenario to white sex workers reveals the normalized racist assumptions behind it—do white sex workers need to be researched to confirm that sex workers’ rights advocacy is important? I hope we can all agree that sex workers of all races should be listened to without the need for researchers to speak for us. We should only negotiate with researchers when absolutely necessary, if it directly benefits our community—we should be doing community-based participatory research ourselves to obtain any data we need.There are many peer researchers of all races available to assist with such research if needed.

Migrant sex workers are viewed as an inconvenience for white workers because our very existence may allow anti-trafficking crusaders to once again criminalize them. The trafficking narrative is so popular that there are many job opportunities for white researchers, peer or otherwise, bringing prestige and career prospects to these white sex work researchers who make patronizing use of migrant workers as subjects. There’s been very little effort to build capacity, unite, and empower migrant workers so that we can speak on our own behalf. Instead, peer sex worker organizations in NSW have become a human resource for researchers to find migrant workers to “interview”, while not benefiting these workers in any way. In addition, racist raids on Asian brothels and the targeting of Asian migrant sex workers by immigration still persist. And all these phenomena are supported by a biased media on migrant sex workers.

The sex worker activists’ rallying call “nothing about us without us” currently applies only to white workers.

The New Zealand model of decriminalization is often promoted as being the best model for sex workers. Yet, it still criminalizes migrant sex workers. People with valid working visas are still arrested and deported if they engage in sex work. Thus, sex work is not accepted as an occupation like any other in New Zealand. This fact is seen as irrelevant because it only applies to migrants. The whiteness of sex worker movement leadership is exemplified when the Prostitutes Collective, the major national peer sex worker organization in NZ, is complicit in the implementation of this model. To add insult to the injury, this model has been advocated for around the world for decades by other peer organizations at the cost of PMSW. For instance, the article shared by Eurydice Aroney in the above image is titled, “NZ sex work model a world leader, expert says” and the link was retweeted by a number of sex workers and sex worker organizations, from SWOP NSW to SWWAC, a coalition of Winnipeg-based sex workers.

There seems to be little evidence to suggest that this is changing. Under the leadership of Catherine Healy, The Prostitutes Collective accepted criminalizing migrant workers as a condition of partial decriminalization of sex work in New Zealand. Nothing in the subsequent review of the legislation, publicly available on the Collective’s website, shows that any effort has been made to reform this section of the law. In a news article, Healy is quoted minimizing the problem by stating,”We’re not talking about significant numbers of people in this situation [migrant sex workers].” And yet while Healy was accepting the neo-colonial “honor” of damehood from the British queen, the raids, arrests, and deportations of migrant workers in New Zealand continued. Our numbers aside, the mistreatment of migrant sex workers in New Zealand is an issue when this model of decriminalization is promoted throughout the world, especially at a time when trafficking hysteria and racist anti-migrant panic are still on the rise. Rather than being held accountable for advocating for this flawed model, Healy enjoys the uncritical acceptance of her stance by most of the sex worker community. In a recent video recorded at a UN discussion on sex work, Healy again fails to correct a description of the NZ model as “full decriminalization”. Although she mentions that migrants are “discriminated” against, she does not explicitly explain that it is her Collective’s model which criminalizes us.

When we argue against radical feminists and other anti-sex work crusaders for their misuse of the word “decriminalization” to describe and advocate for the Swedish model of criminalization of clients, we should be aware that our own movement has also advocated for only partial decriminalization as the best model for sex workers. If decriminalization of sex work includes criminalization of migrant workers, why shouldn’t decriminalization also include the criminalization of clients? It is our own racist movement which has sharpened this weapon against us for our enemies to use, enemies who seek to oppress us through the use of police state violence by criminalizing our clients.

Some sex worker activists argue that NSW is no different from New Zealand. Sex work is not fully decriminalized in NSW either, because street-based sex workers remain criminalized in some circumstances there. The fact that the most marginalized are still criminalized under decriminalization is deplorable, and we need to discuss this more often within our communities as well as fight to repeal these laws. However, sex worker activists in NSW did not themselves accept criminalization of street-based workers as a condition of decriminalization of sex work in NSW. In fact, street-based work was decriminalized in 1979 in NSW, well before the decriminalization of other types of sex work. Unfortunately, the police created a loophole by using an obscure law called The Offensive Behaviour Law to continue to arrest street sex workers anyway. And because of complaints from NSW neighborhood homeowners about street-based sex workers, street-based work was again partially criminalized in 1983 under an amendment to 1979’s Prostitution Bill. When sex work activists claim NSW is decriminalized, they are referring to the Disorderly Houses Amendment Act of 1995, in which brothel keeping and living off the earnings of a sex worker were decriminalized, allowing brothel workers and private indoor workers the right to work. The legislation that recriminalized street sex work in certain areas in NSW was entirely separate from this bill—NSW sex worker advocates did not throw street-based sex workers under the proverbial bus to gain the decriminalization for indoor workers they now enjoy. But in New Zealand, the Prostitution Act itself had criminalization of migrant workers written into the legislation, and NZ sex worker activists were willing to take this deal.

To clarify, street-based sex work itself is technically not criminalized in NSW currently. It is regulated out of certain sections of NSW and legal in certain parts of NSW. It makes more sense to understand NSW as having decriminalized indoor sex work but still not having achieved full decriminalization of sex work, because street sex workers labor under a heavily regulated framework which more closely resembles European legalization.

There’s a lesson here for activists. We must be prepared to tackle regulations and local council laws that will police sex workers even after full or partial decriminalization of sex work, such as the public nuisance and disorderly conduct laws commonly used against street sex workers globally. True decriminalization should never include advocating for legislation which criminalizes some sex workers from the beginning of this long battle against regulation. Criminalizing elements of sex work should best be described as mere legalization, and it inevitably sets the stage for discriminatory regulation even before this battle begins.

We may assume that NZ sex worker activists accepted partial criminalization in a “my rights first”/trickle down approach to human rights. But there is precedent for a more noble political strategy in the South Australian sex worker collective, SIN (Sex Industry Network) in Adelaide, who have persistently rejected decriminalization which still prohibits street-based sex work. Instead, they continue to wait for legislation that will fully decriminalize all sex work and not leave anyone behind.

Decriminalization is important for the sex worker movement, but the process by which we achieve it is just as important. We should continue to advocate for full decriminalization of sex work and not just decriminalization for some. We need to clarify the dangers of accepting criminalization in both the New Zealand and Nordic/Swedish models. Laws are difficult to change once implemented. We must strive to get it right the first time in preparation for the fight against other regulatory problems which awaits us even after true decriminalization. We must collectively decide what we call decriminalization, partial decriminalization, and legalization so as to bring clarity to our collective advocacy. Should we call the NZ model or the Swedish model “decriminalization”? Or are these models more akin to legalization because they directly criminalize some aspects of sex work? Should the NSW model be considered partial decriminalization since street workers are still burdened by draconian laws?

I understand that peer organizations are underfunded and overworked. Regardless, it is imperative that we pay attention to POC, migrant workers, and other marginalized workers, to ensure that we have the space and capacity to organize and raise our voices. Peer sex worker organizations in New Zealand and NSW have failed to earn migrant workers’ trust, so we must represent ourselves.


  1. Thank you for bringing this more out into the open. I’m a sex worker in Western Canada, and while we adopted a “modified Nordic model”, I am lucky to not really have felt any negative effects from it. I am thankful for this, but I feel that I am doing a disservice to my cousins by not knowing what to do on an individual level to make things better for all of us. It feels so complex and like such a giant thing, I really don’t know what I can do. I’m also a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, and because of my time spent serving, I am left with emotional wounds that won’t let me be the voice I wish I still had. Even if I could find my voice again, I don’t know the words needed.
    When it comes to huge issues that seem overwhelming, such as climate change, I believe that we all need to stop waiting for someone to follow, and just start doing what we know needs to be done, but in this case, I really don’t know what that is.

  2. NZPC has always advocated for the inclusion of migrant sex workers.

    CEDAW has recently accepted our submission (2018 July) supported by research conducted with allies that recommends amendments to this offensive piece of legislation.

    It’s important we affirm our gains in respect to law reform.

    The Swedes and Swerfs etc are hovering to undermine these gains afterall.

    We must also continue to campaign hard to progress to a deep model of integration without discrimination including ensuring social protections are extended to all sex workers. Research is really important.

    We have no interest in upholding repressive and restrictve laws.

    We concur with commentators that the inclusion of all sex workers is necessary.

    It’s difficult when these commentators sound more like our enemies than our allies .

    It’s vital we understand patterns of migration and the impact of colonisation and our own history.

    Catherine Healy

    • By affirming your ”gains” you are giving Swerfs and Swedes more power by making the word decriminalisation meaningless. This is not about you or your collective, or what you perceive as attack on your collective, rather, this is becoming a global issue and undermining our collective advocacy with migrants at stake.

      Perhaps we won’t sound like your enemies if you actually stop promoting NZ as having ‘full decriminalisation’ and instead, told the truth, that migrant workers are criminalised under NZ model and the model should not be advocated.

      No one refuted the importance of research.

      I am glad to know that you agree with most of what was written. Impact of colonisation and history is very important to understand, perhaps a starting point would be to address Damehood?

    • Catherine, I write as a recent former NZ brothel-based sex worker of a number of years, now based in so called Australia. I have used NZPC services many times, and say the following with a great deal of respect for the NZPC and the work that the org has done over many years. However, I have to say, I think this is a very unfortunate comment. In particular, it’s very concerning to see you depict a migrant sex worker activist with a long background in sex worker organising as an ‘enemy’ simply because she is making criticisms of a research project, and of elements of NZ legislation. Nada also isn’t a “commentator” or an “ally” – she is a migrant sex worker, a member of the community directly impacted by anti-migrant laws. Do you really think this is how our enemies sound? It isn’t at all. This is how someone in the same fight sounds. Comparing her to her an enemy is a really bad-faith tactic to silence her, and frame her as divisive. It’s particularly unfortunate to see this response from prominent white leadership in the Aus and NZ SWer movements to a migrant POC activist.

      If you and the org have reached a point where you view any criticism as an attack, even (and in fact, especially) when it comes from a current sex worker activist, then I feel really disheartened about the future of the sex workers’ rights movement in Aotearoa.

      I also don’t understand the comment about research – is this a deflection of the SEXHUM criticism? I wonder if the fact that an NZPC employee was also employed as a researcher on the project is perhaps an issue here. I don’t say this to suggest some kind of conspiracy, but it does surely create some complications when the org itself is actually invested in the research, or at least appears to be. Again, I feel this response speaks to a real inability to take on criticism in good-faith from the community you represent.

      As I mentioned above, I say this all from a place of great admiration and respect for much of the work the NZPC has done, and particularly for you as an individual. I hope you can take the following in that spirit – one of solidarity, and one of hope that the NZPC can do some serious work around not simply defensively rejecting criticism, but instead learning from it, even where you disagree. I understand a lot happens behind closed doors, and that what is said publicly may not be everything that is happening, but the PRA (decrim, for those reading from abroad) was passed in NZ many years ago now, and for many NZ-based sex workers, as well as those in other countries, it does often appear that the NZPC is not prioritising migrant sex workers – certainly not in terms of a law change, and certainly not until very recently. Those perceptions matter – you can’t just defensively state that you are working on it and anyone who questions that is wrong.

      I think a lack of clear messaging on this issue is part of the issue, in addition to whatever work has or has not been done to prioritise the decriminalisation of migrant sex workers in NZ. One anecdote which I think demonstrates this: I personally was present at AIDS 2014 in Melbourne when Calum stated on a panel, in response to a question from the audience about lack of decrim for migrant workers in NZ, that migrant sex workers in NZ found ways to cope and were doing okay, and then closed by pointing out it probably wasn’t a big deal for most audience members as Australians could all work in NZ anyway. It was tone-deaf and out of touch at best – dismissive and racist at worst – and incredibly embarrassing to see this happen in front of migrant activists from Thailand, from Germany, and etc. Is it so surprising that overseas SWer organisers are gaining the wrong impression about NZ’s approach to POC migrant workers? Clearly, the NZPC does have an issue here which needs addressing.

      Again, I really urge you to take this as a positive opportunity to reflect on how the NZPC might respond more constructively to community, and might move beyond a defensive holding pattern where fear of “Swedes and Swerfs” prevents moving forward in the interests of all sex workers, including and in particular the most marginalised ones. Criticism is hard, as is feeling misunderstood, but there is too much at stake here to get stuck in those feelings. The discussion Nada has offered here is vital and urgent – a sign that the sex workers rights movement is alive and kicking harder than ever, and that many people are working against great odds to ensure ALL sex workers are brought across the line. This is the kind of work the NZPC and orgs in Australia should be embracing and centring, not viewing with defensive suspicion.

      In solidarity and with high hopes for the future,

    • Migrant sex workers “sound like your enemies”? Aw, did we coloreds hurt your precious innocent white women feelings? I am sick and tired of white citizen women throwing us immigrants and other women of color under the bus. Why don’t you talk about how white Kiwi sw are lobbying for tougher immigration laws because of supposed competition from Asian migrant workers. Why don’t you talk about how these immigration laws and criminalization are KILLING us? You don’t care because you’re safe and happy in your white womanhood, happy to uphold white supremacy and settler colonialism once again.

    • It is so painful for you “white dame” to migrant , POC workers voices , this is so disgusting of you that you see migrant workers as enemy , your respond prove that you failed of leadership as you cannot manage to listen the community voices and you take marginalised community voices as criticism, Do you think you are better than POC and migrant just because you are white ? At the end of the day you also sex workers , just because you are dame , does not change your history of fuck for money! Today you racist towards migrant workers , in the future you will discriminate white workers . Because you think you are dame !

  3. Hmm. Kind of two minds here. I think that any system of sex work “has to” offer the same level of protections, but also regulation and requirements, for all. That is always very hard to manage, unless you do something like actually creating a licensing agency and make it illegal to work without being licensed, so that there is a solid line in the sand to define the same sort of legal issues you would have with, say, hiring your next door neighbor to plump your house, vs. a licensed plumber, and who is at fault, and to what degree, when things go wrong. So, yeah, migrant sex workers, without such a system do pose a unique legal issue. But, the solution isn’t to just make them illegal, its to address the additional perceived risks, and that means having some way to actual regulate them. I am not, being from the US, quite so happy with the concept of brothels though being a solution, because.. well, a lot of sex workers are not in the position where they can “come into work” in such a manner, and that leaves them out in the cold, but also because we can see **very clearly** the difference between brothels in some place like Nevada, where they are heavily regulated, and in the rest of the US, where they are illegal, unregulated, and there is no way to know what rights the people working in them are being given (if any). Rather than being a shelter, and a place where they can be safe, they can be just as bad, or worse, than someone working the street, not as an independent, but as “property” of a pimp. And, that is another one of the issues, without something like a licensing system, do you know who is out there, and who they are actually working for, and what guidance, or possibly threats, they are doing so? Ironically, the legalized brothel tells you are this, has everyone in one place, and can be checked, to make sure everyone is being honest, no so much the street worker, and, again, in Nevada, this is *still* a real problem with street workers (who are also not even supposed to be legally working on the street). Decriminalizing that, without fixing the underlying problem of just anyone being able to go out and do it, and having now idea who they are working for (or is forcing them to work), doesn’t solve the problem.

    I absolutely agree that the people on the street need to be treated the same, and full decriminalization is the right path, but it has to go, hand in hand, with actually regulating the job, for the protection of both the people selling, and buying, the result. And, its almost always a case that the legalization of something comes before/without the process of working out how to license/regulate the result. This is, imho, at least in the US, often intentional – some of the players involved will either refuse to come up with a sensible solution first, because they want failure, or they will go to the other extreme and over-regulate something, knowing it will make it broken – why? Because the people doing it don’t want it legalized in the first place, so the way to solve their problem, in the face of public opinion, is to rig the system so it remains broken, or breaks worse, and then they can criminalize it all over.

    We see this in everything from Nevada’s own, “brothels are OK, but we are going to do nothing about the street walkers, other than to call them a nuisance and keep them illegal”, solution, to the same problem, to what happened to public beaches all across the country, in which they pulled out resources, and life guards, when they where nude/clothing optional, thus **making them unsafe**, in order to prove that they where unsafe, and risky, and keep people from going to them. And you can see this twisted mentality running through huge swaths of US legal code – take with one hand, while you give with the other, and hope that it fails. Certain factions have even been doing this for decades with public services – take money from them, and add more red tape, while lying about the people receiving them – eventually it will break entirely, and we can simply eliminate the programs. Even the higher costs of not having them do not discourage these people, because they almost all have loopholes, and strategies, which they can use to escape every “paying” that extra expense, but they can’t avoid, 100% entirely, paying taxes and *everything*, so they still have to pay some of their money into those programs (and the whole point is for them to not have to spend a dime they believe is their own on any of them).

    This is why things have gone so badly in the wrong direction in the US on the subject – the people with the above mind set also tend to be fanatics, of one stripe or another, and when you marry, “I refuse to pay for that!”, with, “And its a sin anyway!”, then find the vast majority of more than half of your government is made up of these people… it gets freaking ugly fast.

    I suspect, since this madness infects every place, a small, tiny, segment of the opposition of decriminalization may be from this sort of hidden, hard line, obsession, but.. a lot of it may be the same concern, whether its legitimate in NZ at all, that there is no clear means to determine the legitimacy of the work being done by someone moving through (I have no idea if they have something like sex work licensing, and if they do.. yeah, I can’t see any government being anything but shy and wishy washy over just what that actually entails…), or clear control/understanding over who they work for, or even if they are truly working by choice, instead of under coercion. There are risks involved that “do not exist” for someone local, and permanent to the area, and.. I imagine that some people, legitimately, have serious reservations about how you mitigate those risks *at all*, let alone effectively.

    And, to be frank, advocacy groups are often way into the hardships, the unfair treatment, etc. of groups of people, but.. they tend to leave the “issues” to someone else to work out, instead of coming to the table, from what I have seen, with clear understanding of what the problems, real and imaginary, are, and proposals on how to fix them, or why they are really not problems, as part of the “solution”. Freedom is always a trade off. Sometimes, rightly, only one side needs to be giving something, which isn’t even valuable, like their prejudices, up to get the result that is needed. In other cases… there really are people, waiting in the wings, to take full advantage of changes that should be positive, and turn them ugly, by “granting” more freedom, without considering how to protect anyone from the bad actors that are going to show up and take advantage (and, lets be clear, those “bad actors” may turn out to be cops that disagree with the new law, and harass the now legal workers, among other “concerned” people, but it also includes the guy that figures, “Heh, now that its legal to do this, I can take my illegal business, or parts of it, totally public, and legitimize it, which reduces my risk of being arrested for all the crimes I am involved with!”)

    I see so many protests, honestly, which are gung ho in favor of fixing the obvious problem, while totally failing to see the need to slap down the people who will, invariably, use the opportunity given to do worse things than they do already. There is, unfortunately, a sort of tunnel vision view that, “This things can be fixed later, or we don’t think they will happen.” And, its almost always wrong, and almost always what gives the people apposed to the positive change in the first place an excuse to call for its re-criminalization, when everything falls apart, or doesn’t work as advertised.

    One cannot be naive, and propose such changes, imho, purely on the grounds, “Its the right thing to do!”. Its like revolutions – of the hundreds that have transpired over the centuries, the only one that was, more or less, 100% successful, and didn’t lead to poor leadership, or temporary control under a dictator, before a second revolution ousted them, was the American one. What is the key difference? The US had already codified a new government, and rules, defining its structure, and people’s rights, etc. **before** they first declaration of revolution. Yeah, its been rocky since, and many changes where made, or should have been made, and its looking like a disaster at the moment, but.. it worked “at all” in the first place because they thought they had a clear plan, from the start, for every *existing* issue that needed to be dealt with, for what came “after” they threw out the old power. Legislation of something as drastic as legalizing something that nearly every country in the world has, even when its legal there, either neglected outright, or despised and tried to destroy, imho, requires not just advocacy of the end of it being criminal, but *the same level of planning on just how the F to make it work, when it is legal*. If not, it will stumble, and fail, more often than not, and more authoritarian (I won’t say “conservative”, because that wasn’t originally meant to mean inflexible, stubborn, and obsessively religious) ideologues will be given every cause to undo all and any progress, as they have in multiple cases already, in every place where they tried to legalize things, but utterly failed to create the framework needed to remove the existing criminal elements *from* the now decriminalized industry.

    And, like I said.. one has to wonder, was that lack of forethought, on the part of the “government” who did it, intentional, on some level? And, did anyone suggesting they do it actually have a plan, at all, before they just, with a stroke of a pen, made things legal, then ignored all the existing, and new, problems it would cause? Its not something, imho, that we can afford to just hope they get right, if/when they decide to do it. That doesn’t benefit anyone.

  4. What do you mean by migrant workers still being criminalised? Because they’re working without visas? This is something that applies to all work, not just sex work. Working without a visa is illegal in every country? So why on earth would a government randomly allow sex workers without visas to work when every other industry it would be illegal?

  5. As a marginalised group I believe that those of us who are white within the sex worker movement need to stop being apologists for shitty legislation, racism, border-mania and the hyper-policing of certain groups of people within the sex worker community. Not ok. Even (& especially) within juristdictions that grant other sex workers protections.

    White sex workers within the movement need to take responsiblity for unpacking our own privilege. Thank you Nada for calling this out, and also it sucks that it takes sex workers of colour and sex workers of migrant backgrounds to literally go out on a limb in order for the movement to take this up as a serious question. Lets not shoot the messenger.

    Neither NSW or New Zealand have full decriminalisation. Doesn’t matter how much we >wish< it were different, or have campaigned for it to be different, we CAN NO LONGER dress up either set of laws as ideal. To do so is racist. I own that I have done this for years too…. and I want my future advocacy to be less racist.

    Lets own the racism inherent in social movements, society, and yes, within our very own community. To overlook this is to deny the deep roots of settler-colonialism, genocide of indigenous peoples, white supremacy…. et al. NO MORE DENIAL.

  6. I found Nada’s piece and the honest commentary extremely interesting to read. I do have hope for the future seeing how bravely folks are speaking on these issues. Also would like to send a little virtual love to everyone who commented but especially to Nada as well. It costs us to write, speak about our oppressions and to make difficult choices. Thanks you and your efforts are seen and valued. Thank you also tits and sass. Your efforts also appreciated.

  7. I agree with the overall thrust of this piece, but think there are some issues with the way Catherine and the NZPC were characterised in it. From what I know, Section 19 of the PRA that criminalises migrant sex work was added at the last minute by a Labour MP who wanted to ‘combat trafficking’, against advice from the NZPC, so it wasn’t really the NZPC’s model. The Collective has also commissioned research that among other things criticises Section 19 (Roguski, 2013) and has been trying to get the section repealed for the past few years. I’m not sure if the author has ever worked in New Zealand, but if not then I think a piece by a migrant worker in NZ would have been more accurate. It’s true though that the Roguski research would’ve been better if done by another migrant SWer, I’m not sure what efforts were made for that to happen.

    That said, I think the points about how the model is talked about are legit, since it’s ofc not full decrim. Also disappointed to hear of what Bennachie said at the AIDS conference; plus the SEXHUM project looks bad and it’s definitely fucked up that it’s largely done by white people. So yeah, despite what I think about some of the NZPC details I don’t want to come across as slanging the whole article, cos it’s good and migrant SWers deserve better from NZ SW activism. Also agree that it was bad form for Catherine to refer to the author as sounding like ‘our enemies’, cos jeesh the power differential is huge both btwn whorephobes and the author and btwn Catherine and the author. Appreciation to the author for raising this stuff.

    • It was clearly stated that NZPC have accepted the changes, not ‘assert to make the change against migrants’. The article was not about migrant sex work experience and realities of it in NZ, rather the effect Healy has globally when promoting NZ as having the best model in the world. This is irresponsible considering the easiest way for many activists to push legalisation (calling it “decriminalisation”) is by throwing migrants under the bus. As the article points out, this is also the tactic of people pushing Swedish/Nordic model.

      Further, if it were white people that were criminalised and no one else, I am sure that she will not be going around doing research to prove that it is the best model, only to then do conflicting research saying it is horrible for migrants. There is clear conflicting desire and messaging on NZ front that needs to resolved. For the most part, Healy has been promoting the model as being the best at the cost of migrants.

      This is also not a PERSONAL ATTACK on Healy. I have no personal issue with her aside from the irresponsible messaging. It seems there is a cult of Healy and I can not criticise any of her actions without outright rejection and vilification. Yes, she is throwing migrants under the bus when ever she downplays the criminalising of migrants and promoting the model as best in the world. I guess people are so blinded by awesomeness of Healy that they can not see that it is offensive and irresponsible. Further, she is the spokesperson for NZPC. If there are conflict within the NZPC and therefore, what she is saying – that is also not my problem to figure out.

      I actually have little hope for migrants in NZ. It would be very difficult to change the laws now especially when trafficking and anti-migrant sentiments is the dominant narrative. This article is less to do with NZ, but rather, how to make sure this does not happen ever again and to let other activists know the dangers and also that migrants aren’t stupid – we know and are watching. We are silenced by the white sex workers’ movement to not say anything and eat it. I have been silent for YEARS. Enough is enough. It is easier to disseminate information to the rest of the activist community rather than try to change NZ from the outside – this is not my place nor my job and intention. Healy/NZPC seem to care little for migrant issues globally – I also care little about how she/NZPC might look or feel with my messaging globally.

  8. One of the many strands of this conflictive conversation is about the term migrant, and how it does and doesn’t intersect with ‘race’ or ethnicity. When I began to study what I was seeing in the mid-90s the women I knew were mostly latin americans of all countries and colours. I went to Europe to observe the supposed helping they were subject to by social workers and ngo projects. For me migrant was (and still is) a status, not a permanent identity. But in the ensuing years it has been studied and named a great deal, the word over-used, more and more people calling themselves migrants. We see secure middle-class folks who cross borders to do well-paid jobs being called migrants. Within the EU it’s common: a French person moves to London and stays 5 years before going to Italy, and so on. And it’s not only Europe: I was recently at an international sexworker meeting in Amsterdam where the question ‘who is a migrant?’ had nearly everyone replying yes. Children born to migrants who did and didn’t stay and manage to become citizens are sometimes called migrants themselves. How long everyone’s been abroad comes into play, and whether they went ‘back home’ in the end. And there are more issues, so it becomes difficult to distinguish levels of power, access to rights and Otherness. I can think of a million more things to say but won’t!

  9. We linked this essay on the Archive page of our website and noted it as a “must-read” for all white hookers engaging in decriminalization activism. Bravo.


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