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Big Increase of Sex Workers Myth: Latest Research

Tuesday September 12, 2006

Big Increase of Sex Workers a Myth: Latest Research

The number of sex workers on the street since the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act has not increased according to latest research by Otago University’s Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The early results of a wider study indicates that the number of sex workers on the street is much the same as before the Act came into force in 2003.

The research is being carried out by Gillian Abel, Lisa Fitzgerald and Dr Cheryl Brunton from the Department of Public Health and General Practice at the School in collaboration with the NZ Prostitutes’ Collective. The wider study is investigating the impact of the Prostitution Reform Act on the health and safety practices of sex workers. It involves sex workers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Hawkes Bay.

“Contrary to the much publicised assertions of local and national politicians, the evidence is actually that numbers of sex workers on the streets haven’t increased since prostitution was decriminalised,” says Ms Abel, leader of the research team.

The number of workers on the street was assessed by headcounts on several nights over a two week period early this year in all centres taking part in the study.

A similar estimate of street workers in Christchurch in 1999, using the same method, found 106 workers. In 2006, 77 street workers were counted on the streets of Christchurch during the study period, although outreach workers knew of a further 23 workers who were not seen during this time. This indicates the number of street workers in Christchurch is around 100, although they do not all work all of the time.

In Auckland, the study found 106 street workers during the two week estimate period. All areas in Auckland where street sex work takes place were included. This is considerably fewer than police estimates in 2003 of 360 sex workers on the streets of Auckland.

In Wellington, 47 street workers were counted which is slightly lower than a 2003 estimate of 50.

The research team are currently surveying a sample of sex workers about their health and safety practices and carrying out in-depth interviews with a smaller group to help understand these. This work will be completed by late-2007.

“The results of our study will inform the statutory review of the Prostitution Reform Act”, said Ms Abel.

ENDS

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