Her Majesty The Queen's Bewildering Legitimisation of the Sex Trade Harms Women and Girls

05 June 2018

It was a major disappointment and shock for SPACE International, an international sex trade survivor movement, that Her Majesty The Queen bestowed an Order of Merit on a founding member of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC), a group which lobbied that country to decriminalise all aspects of prostitution in 2003.

In endorsing the recommendation by honouring a person who facilitated the decriminalisation of not only those being sold, but also pimps, brothel-owners and buyers of sexual access, Her Majesty is unknowingly offering legitimisation to the incredibly profitable and extremely exploitative commercial sex trade, which has caused untold harm to millions of mainly women and girls around the world - many whom have died, or have been left with lifelong consequences as a result of it.

We believe that ideologues who support the sex-trade have abused the honours system to further legitimise the exploitation of women entrapped in prostitution and as such the systems of scrutiny that raise names within the honours system need to urgently be reviewed. We respectfully request that this Order of Merit is rescinded immediately as the unintended consequences of this award sends an extremely dangerous message that the exploitation of people in prostitution is acceptable - and even worthy of being commended.

Every member of SPACE International has lived through the reality of prostitution. Our experience is from different corners of the globe - including in the United Kingdom and New Zealand - but there are always common factors such as gender inequality, poverty and other structural inequalities why the sex trade swallowed us up in the first place, and why it can similarly be so difficult to exit from it.

Women who lived prostitution in New Zealand say that after full decriminalisation they “went from fearing the police to fearing the pimps”. On top of this, since it is now viewed as work in that country those who have found themselves stuck in prostitution are given no support when trying to exit, while the men who buy sexual access to their bodies are legitimised to do whatever they please.

The New Zealand approach has completely failed. It conceals the inherent violence within the sex trade and has not reduced the scale of prostitution - including of minors. Former Prime Minister John Key backed this assertion up in 2012 when he publicly stated that the 2003 law reform hadn't worked.

The only policy approach to prostitution which Her Majesty should consider standing behind is the one which SPACE International and other sex trade survivors support. Starting in Sweden in 1999 the Abolitionist (Nordic) Model has gained significant traction around the world and versions of it have been adopted by Norway, Iceland, Canada, Northern Ireland, France and the Republic of Ireland.

Supported by feminist activists around the world this approach is a set of laws and policies which decriminalises and mandates exiting services and support to people in prostitution, while criminalising pimps, brothel owners and those who buy sexual access to the bodies of women and girls.

  • "When I look back now I see that prostitutuion lured and consumed those of us who were already marginalised in society. If you were poor, if you were disadvantaged, if you had come from a broken home or had vulnerabilities connected to prior cycles of abuse, especially sexual abuse, prostitution was there waiting for you. Prostitution is a trap, and it’s not a coincidence that all over the world it ensnares those who are already struggling to survive."
    - Rachel Moran, Dublin, Ireland
  • "When New Zealand passed full decriminalisation, things changed in unexpected ways and I came to understand that the myths of legal protection, autonomy, increased choice and greater community acceptance were unfounded.. The myth of health being better was proved false in less than 6 months of the law reform. Women were kissing and risking herpes, doing oral sex without condoms with the risk of throat warts, doing rougher and riskier practices just to get the jobs.. I dealt with punters changing expectations. I had no choice but to fight against this model ever spreading to another country."
    - Sabrinna Valisce, Melbourne, Australia
  • "I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life, and with that my education became a tool. I was recognized for my tenacity and my strength and have been able now to be an asset to my community and to my people."
    - Bridget Perrier, Toronto, Canada
  • "It might surprise you, but it can happen to anyone. No you’re not exempt. I wasn’t."
    - Marian Hatcher, Chicago, USA
  • "Many people ask me, how did I get into prostitution, was I “trafficked” or was I a willing participant? What many don’t understand is - however we entered - what the act of prostitution does to us; how it slowly strips us of any semblance of ourselves, as we try to sell part of our bodies, while keeping our soul intact. Prostitution preys on the most vulnerable; it takes us places we never intended to go, all driven by those who feel entitled to pay for our bodies. "
    - Cherie Jimenez, Boston, USA
  • "Remembering friend’s I have lost along the way, and taking a glance at all the violence, rape and inhumane activities, I just can’t help but recognize my luck to alive today."
    - Mickey Meji, Cape Town, South Africa
  • "For me, sexual abuse was a direct route into prostitution. The same kind of destructive abuse chosen by myself, because I knew this feeling and recognised myself in this situation, even though the situation traumatised me over and over again."
    - Tanja Rahm, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • "Just because dancing (stripping) is legal does not mean it’s not violence against women - Stripping and prostitution go hand in hand."
    - Vednita Carter, St Paul, USA
  • "What I know today is that women are victimised by the system of prostitution by innumerable perpetrators, and at the same time victimised by a society which is not only allowing but encouraging prostitution by accepting it as a 'job like any other'. We are victims of a society blind in one eye, advancing the wealth of a privileged few over the suffering of an incalculable number of women and children."
    - Marie Merklinger, Stuttgart, Germany
  • "At the tender age of fifteen I was coerced into the brutal world of prostitution, I immediately lost my identity. I liken my day to day life to being on the front lines of a battlefield. I spent the next eleven years shut down and disassociated. I supressed feelings of shame and disgust constantly, by telling myself that this was a job like any other."
    - Fiona Broadfoot, Bradford, UK
  • "My body, mind, and spirit survived so many things for so many years. The sexual exploitation and violence I endured was almost like something that happened to someone else. If I had told myself the truth about what was being done to me, my psyche would have splintered into a million pieces."
    - Autumn Burris, Denver, USA
Read more testimonials
"Remembering friend’s I have lost along the way, and taking a glance at all the violence, rape and inhumane activities, I just can’t help but recognize my luck to alive today."
- Mickey Meji, Cape Town, South Africa
Read more testimonials