Renowned feminist scholar and activist Janice Raymond, author of Not a Choice, Not a Job and Women as Wombs among other seminal texts – has challenged the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective (NZPC) in an article published in Dignity journal last month. The article, called Gatekeeping decriminalization of prostitution: The ubiquitous influence of the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective, is a rare critical take in today’s academic context, where discussions of the sex trade are increasingly dominated by scholars who accept, adopt and promote sex trade lobby positions on prostitution.
Raymond’s article spotlights New Zealand, outlining the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act (PRA), and explaining that NZPC was not only “influential in lobbying for the law that decriminalized the sex industry, but also drafted the original bill.” She describes NZPC’s relationships with brothel owners, as well as the organisation’s government funding, budget and expenditure – leading her to question both the monopoly NZPC has on prostitution policy and research in New Zealand, as well as their trustworthiness as an organisation.
“A substantial part of the NZPC website is devoted to brothel owners and business practices,” observes Raymond. NZPC offers help to those who seek brothel licences, which even pimps complain are “too easy to get… I used to be a car dealer and to get a licence was really hard… what’s the point?” Brothel licence applications accepted between 2004 and 11 numbered 914.
Yet, as Raymond points out, “no one knows who the brothel owners are, except perhaps the NZPC who has such good relationships with them.” Meanwhile, brothels are barely ever inspected: “in the years following 2015, only 11 inspections have been conducted… which poses the question why so few if the goal [of decriminalization] is to protect the “workers”.” This is, indeed, what NZPC consistently claims decriminalization achieves – the protection of so-called “sex workers”. NZPC authorizes itself to make such claims by cultivating an image of itself as a pseudo-union in regular contact with the majority of “sex workers” in New Zealand.