Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Managing Risks of Violence in Decriminalised Street-Based Sex Work: a Feminist (Sex Worker Rights) Perspective

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Version 2 2023-03-14, 03:01
Version 1 2021-11-13, 20:31
posted on 2023-03-14, 03:01 authored by Armstrong, Lynzi

It is widely understood that street-based sex workers are vulnerable to experiencing  violence in their work. The Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) was passed in New  Zealand in 2003, decriminalising sex work with the intention of supporting the health,  safety, and human rights of sex workers. This thesis explores strategies to manage  risks of violence amongst women working on the streets in New Zealand, considering  how the law change has impacted on the management of these risks, and whether  further change is required to better support the safety of street-based sex workers.  Drawing from the perspectives of women working on the streets, this thesis  challenges portrayals of street-based sex workers as passive recipients of violence.  The experiences and perceptions of these women highlight the diverse violencerelated  risks they managed from a range of potential perpetrators, including passersby,  individuals approaching as clients, other sex workers, and minders. The shift to  decriminalisation has not eliminated violence. However, the findings suggest that the  law change has provided a framework that better supports existing risk management  strategies. For instance, in removing the possibility of arrest for soliciting, the PRA  has provided an environment in which these women have sufficient time to screen  potential clients on the street. Moreover, the perceptions of these women suggest that  the law change has to some extent improved the relationship between police and  street-based sex workers. Nevertheless, whilst decriminalisation has created an  environment more conducive to sex worker safety, it is clear that challenges remain in  addressing violence against sex workers. Since the sex industry does not operate in  social and political isolation, moral discourses continue to stigmatise and threaten the  wellbeing of street-based sex workers.  The overall conclusion of this thesis is that whilst decriminalisation was an important  first step, moving forward to proactively challenge violence against street-based sex  workers requires a paradigm shift away from discourses that support violence, to a  more positive acceptance of street-based sex work in New Zealand society.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Jordan, Jan; Mossman, Elaine