Prostitution research as dodgy as the Prostitution Act

The Christchurch School of Medicine research on prostitution numbers is as dodgy as the original Act which decriminalised prostitution.

“The researchers have done ‘head counts’ and ‘estimated’ numbers,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First. “Yet in Christchurch, they acknowledged that they couldn’t find ¼ of the workers who they knew were normally on the street. They would also have had difficulty finding the increasing number of under-age prostitutes who would be unwilling to be counted for fear of prosecution.”

“Their conclusions are therefore unreliable, and inconsistent with the experiences of communities, street based organisations and the Police.”

“Only this year, we have had reports of transvestite prostitutes squaring off against schoolgirl sex workers in South Auckland, Police stating that international students in the sex industry being an increasing problem, prostitutes as young as 12 on the streets of Christchurch, and claims by prostitutes themselves that decriminalisation has led to increased numbers and turf wars, aggressive attitudes from purchasers, and more visible drug dealing and standover tactics.”

The research is also inconsistent with the Prostitution Law Review Committee’s report on the State of the Sex Industry in NZ, tabled in Parliament last year. This survey found a 40% increase in sex workers since 2001, and a growing trend towards street prostitution (up from 3% in 2001 to 11% in 2004).

The report also identified about 200 prostitutes under the age of 18.

But the main weakness of the research is its implied message that prostitution has not increased since decriminalisation.

In a 2005 paper written by Ronald Weitzer from the Department of Sociology at George Washington University entitled “New Directions in Research on Prostitution”, it states:
In the United States, Britain, The Netherlands, and many other countries, however, only a minority of prostitutes work on the streets (10–30%) (Alexander, 1987; Matthews, 1997; O’Leary and Howard, 2001). Yet they receive the lion’s share of attention, and findings on street prostitution are “often presented as a feature of sex work per se”…. The irony is that most research has been done on the least prevalent type of prostitution. All too often overlooked is the large population of indoor workers: escort, brothel, bar, and massage parlor.

Further research on these underexamined populations should have the cumulative effect of producing a more nuanced, multifaceted, and comprehensive understanding of prostitution than what currently exists in a body
of literature that is heavily dominated by studies of female street prostitutes.

“Prostitution is destructive to all parties concerned,” says Mr McCoskrie, “and the association of prostitution with gang and criminal behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual abuse and violence means that we are sentencing more and more men and women to an unacceptable and destructive situation.”


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