Decriminalizing Prostitution, OSHA and Porn

In my research I often happen upon interesting articles, cases or even regulations. A few weeks ago I was involved in a conversation on Twitter with Maggie McNeil that peeked my interest into the status of sex industry in New Zealand ( http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/ ). Ms. McNeil is a self described librarian, housewife, call girl and a madam, who likes to own the word “whore.” During the conversation she kept referring to how New Zealand had decriminalized prostitution and how it could serve as a model to other to other countries. Not knowing much about New Zealand law or how they treat escorts and prostitutes I decided to do some research.

What I found is not only interesting in its application to the escorting industry but also to adult entertainment in the United States. In 2003 New Zealand passed the Prostitution Reform Act. The Act removed voluntary adult (18) prostitution from the criminal law and replaced it with civil law at both national and local level. A distinction was made between voluntary and involuntary prostitution. To this day it remains a crime in New Zealand to coerce someone to provide sexual services. Contracts between provider and client are know recognized by the courts of New Zealand and providers have the right to refuse services to clients. Advertising however is still banned with the exception of print media which is restricted.

Upon passing the Prostitution Reform Act, the government of New Zealand went even further and decided to adopt health and safety regulations in regards to prostitution. New Zealand’s version of Cal-OSHA devised a 101 page detailed “Guide to Occupational Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry” ( Download a copy here NewZealandOSHAregsexindustry-1 ).

New Zealand OSHA’s guide to the sex industry is comprehensive and detailed. It addresses a wide range of issues, including employees, independent contractors, appropriate clothing for prostitutes, repetitive stress injuries, unions, work breaks in between clients to even fire extinguishers and safety equipment in brothels. It is far more detailed then the regulations currently being instituted by Cal-OSHA on the adult entertainment industry and does so in a manner that works with the those it tries to regulate instead of forcing it upon them

New Zealand OSHA devised the regulations with the assistance and help of the sex industry. The first page of the guide states;

“These guidelines are based on those developed by the Scarlet Alliance, an
Australian forum for sex workers’ rights organisations, and the Australian
Federation of AIDS Organisations, titled A Guide to Best Practice:
Occupational Health and Safety in the Australian Sex Industry, compiled
by David Edler.
OSH acknowledges the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective who provided
industry-specific information and understanding of the sex industry in
New Zealand.”

Not only did New Zealand OSHA work with a New Zealand sex worker’s alliance but also an Australian sex workers’ rights organization ( Please see: http://www.nzpc.org.nz/ and http://www.scarletalliance.org.au/ ). They they also worked with Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations ( Please see: http://www.afao.org.au/ ). The Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations also work closely with the Scarlet Alliance and the Australian Sex Workers Association, unlike AHF in the United States that does not have a relationship with any of the sex worker industries.

What is even more surprising is what the New Zealand OSHA regulations state in regards to condoms. From page 37 of the Guide;

“Employers should not only require condom use, but should also identify
condom use and other safer sex practices clearly to employees and clients as
the standard, expected practice of the establishment.”

Condoms are “expected” not mandated. Fines can be imposed for not requiring condoms however, unlike violating Ballot Measure B, violating the condom expectation in New Zealand will not result in jail time. Even customers can be fined for removing condoms during sex ( Please see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-355879/NZ-man-fined-removing-condom.html )

It also appears that New Zealand OSHA takes a more reasoned approach to STIs in the prostitution industry then Cal-OSHA does in regards to porn, from page 39;

“Each person must accept responsibility for preventing themselves and
others from becoming infected with sexually transmissible infections.
There are many infections, including HIV, that can be transmitted through
sexual intercourse. The consistent use of condoms for oral, vaginal and
anal sex will prevent most of these from being transmitted.
Syphilis and blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C
can be transmitted by means other than penetrative sex and other sexual
activity. This includes the sharing of needles and other drug-injecting
equipment among injecting drug users (IDUs), unsterile skin-piercing
procedures, childbirth and breastfeeding, and transfusion of infected
blood.”

It implies a personally responsibility to remain safe as opposed to treating semen and bodily fluids as though they were dangerous chemicals requiring immediate treatment.

The other interesting aspect to the regulations is that they only apply to employers with more than 5 employees and/or any group of 5 or more prostitutes working together in a collective situation ( Please see: http://www.nzpc.org.nz/page.php?page_name=Law ). This is unlike Ballot Measure B which will affect all legal commercial sex in Los Angeles County, even married monogamous couples web camming from their own home. The United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act only applies to employers with 15 or more employees ( Please see: http://www.ada.gov/q%26aeng02.htm ) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California’s version of the ADA, only applies to employers with 5 or more employees for most claims. ( Please see: http://www.fehc.ca.gov/act/default.asp ). Ballot Measure B will effect all employers whether they have no employees or 100+ employees. This will place a tremendous financial burden on the smallest of producers who will be required to obtain an expensive health permit if Ballot Measure B passes.

None the less, it is this author’s opinion that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles City Council and Cal-OSHA can take a valuable lesson from the government of New Zealand on how to work with an industry they are trying to regulate. New Zealand OSHA, obviously was better informed and more understanding of the health and safety of prostitutes as well as the business necessities of the brothels when they developed their regulations than Los Angeles county and city officials as well as Cal-OSHA has been in regards to the adult entertainment industry in California.

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