People caught in the global sex trade, who are overwhelmingly women and girls, are among the world’s most marginalized. But states too often treat them as criminals. Every day, survivor leaders and frontline advocates fight against the brutal sex trade system and the criminalization of people in prostitution, calling on states to offer support services and hold sex buyers accountable. Not every government sees it this way. Some countries — most egregiously Germany and New Zealand — have framed prostitution as a legitimate industry and given it state-sanctioned approval.
As policy debates rage around the world over how states should govern prostitution, we wanted to understand if Germany’s legalization model and New Zealand’s decriminalization model are really all that different. Our new report, Germany and New Zealand, A Comparison in Prostitution Laws, takes a closer look at these two countries’ laws in action from 2002 to 2017.
What we discovered is that, despite the narrative framing Germany’s law an abject failure and New Zealand’s approach a “progressive” success, the differences between the two frameworks are minimal and neither law achieved its stated goals. What both did do is expand the sex trade, empower sex buyers, legitimize pimps and brothel owners, and increase sex trafficking.
It’s time to shatter common misconceptions around these laws.