Sex Work in New Zealand: The Re-Importation of Moral Majoritarianism in Regulating a Decriminalised Industry

Ceri Warnock and Nicola Wheen “Sex-Work in New Zealand: The Re-importation of Moral Majoritarianism in Regulating a Decriminalised Industry” (2012) 24(2) Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 414-438, DOI.org/10.3138/cjwl.24.2.414.

Posted: 11 Dec 2018

See all articles by Ceri Warnock

Ceri Warnock

University of Otago - Faculty of Law

Nicola Wheen

University of Otago - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

In 2003, New Zealand became the only country in the world to decriminalize all aspects of unforced sex work. The law reform heralded a radical shift. Rather than attempting to suppress the industry by criminalizing the participants, the purpose of the Prostitution Reform Act was to ensure that the human rights of sex workers were safeguarded.However, this contentious social experiment has only served to highlight an acute clash between the ideal of public participation in decision making and the imperative of protecting the rights of an unpopular minority. This article considers this dichotomy. By those most fusty stalwarts of local democracy --- bylaws and planning controls -- moral disapprobation has been allowed to continue to dominate, suppressing the rights of sex workers. Further, owing to the discretionary elements inherent in judicial review, administrative law has failed to provide the necessary safeguards. This article responds to Emily van der Meulen and Elya Durisin and serves to caution rights-focused reformers. To be truly effective, any rights-based legislation should be careful in ensuring that the possible continuing moral indignation of local communities is not, through legal processes, permitted to threaten the welfare and safety of sex workers and risk the creation of a second-tier, clandestine industry.

Keywords: New Zealand, Sex Work & Prostitution, Administrative Law

JEL Classification: K00, K23

Suggested Citation

Warnock, Ceri and Wheen, Nicola, Sex Work in New Zealand: The Re-Importation of Moral Majoritarianism in Regulating a Decriminalised Industry (2012). Ceri Warnock and Nicola Wheen “Sex-Work in New Zealand: The Re-importation of Moral Majoritarianism in Regulating a Decriminalised Industry” (2012) 24(2) Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 414-438, DOI.org/10.3138/cjwl.24.2.414., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3263852

Ceri Warnock (Contact Author)

University of Otago - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 56
Dunedin North
Dunedin, 9016
New Zealand

Nicola Wheen

University of Otago - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 56
Dunedin North
Dunedin, 9016
New Zealand

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