Catherine Healy, New Zealand Prostitutes Collective
national co-ordinator, speaks in Dunedin yesterday. Photo
by Stephen Jaquiery.
That view was yesterday advanced by Catherine Healy,
national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes
Collective, who was addressing the Australia-New Zealand
Association of Leisure Studies conference at the University of
Her talk, to about 70 conference-goers, was titled "The
oldest trick: 'I'm just popping out for a walk!' Leisure and
the sex industry".
Ms Healy, of Wellington, is a founding member of the
Prostitutes Collective, which was established in 1987 to
promote the rights, health and safety of sex workers.
In February last year, she was in a winning team at the
Oxford Union that won a debate focusing on the proposition
"That this house should decriminalise prostitution".
She was the first New Zealander to be invited to the Oxford
Union Debate, in England, since the late David Lange spoke
there in 1985.
In a wide-ranging and often witty presentation yesterday, Ms
Healy said versions of the "I'm just popping out for a walk"
line had been used many times by clients, including married
men, to cover furtive visits to massage parlours.
Ms Healy, who is an author and former school teacher, said
the collective was always looking for "some new friends".
"We've been rejected rather a lot," she said.
The Prostitution Law Reform Act had come into effect in 2003
and had decriminalised sex work and significantly improved
the protection of sex workers.
"New Zealand is world-leading in its approach to sex
workers." Official reviews of the Act had shown there had
since been no increase in overall prostitution or in underage
Over the years, New Zealand sex workers had also played a
major role in promoting safe sex and reducing the spread of
sexually transmitted diseases.
Ms Healy jokingly suggested conference-goers should "stick to
your day jobs" and emphasised "the majority of people aren't
out there paying for sex" since the law had been changed.
Despite the progressive legislation, New Zealand sex workers
remained "betwixt and between, not quite out, not quite in".
A continuing lack of acceptance of the role of sex workers in
the leisure industry was reflected by the excessively strict
approach to bylaws involving the siting of brothels by some
city councils, including in Auckland and Christchurch, where
such moves have since been successfully challenged through
New Zealand had "done a better job of taking care of the
wellbeing of sex workers" but the reform legislation could
not be taken for granted.
Human trafficking for the sex industry had not been a problem
in New Zealand and immigration authorities remained alert to
Nevertheless, some US authorities took the view that the New
Zealand legislation did not help in countering international
trafficking, and pressure could eventually be applied to
change the law, she said.
• This is the first time the Association of Leisure Studies
conference has been held in Dunedin, and 138 people are
attending, about 100 from abroad.