In 2003 the Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) was passed which decriminalised sex work in New Zealand. The Prostitution Law Review Panel released their report evaluating the Act in 2008 and this highlighted the positive gains made in the health and safety of sex workers (Prostitution Law Review Committee 2008). The Review Panel, however, provided only very brief comment on Section 19 of the PRA. This section deals with the application of the Immigration Act 1987. It stipulates that no permit can be granted to a non-resident who provides, or intends to provide, commercial sexual services, or who intends to operate or invest in a commercial sexual business. If the holder of a temporary or limited permit under the Immigration Act does not comply in this regard, the permit may be revoked.
Section 19 is controversial. On the one hand there are arguments that New Zealand needs to ensure that this country is not seen as a destination for trafficking. However, there are strong arguments that this section increases the vulnerability of migrant sex workers. There is the potential that migrant sex workers are easy targets for exploitation as they are unlikely to complain to police for fear of deportation.
This study is taking a qualitative approach to explore migrant sex workers’ experiences in New Zealand. The qualitative approach will allow us to explore the meanings and interpretations the participants give to their experiences, which provides a broad contextual understanding.