Sex work in New Zealand - was decriminalisation a good idea?

In New Zealand, we've got some of the most liberal prostitution laws in the world.

Sex work was decriminalised in 2003, but was it the right decision? 

How it all began: Kororāreka, now known as Russell, was the first permanent European settlement. By the 1820s it became the biggest whaling port in the southern hemisphere.

And it was notorious for its brothels. 

Whaling ships would come into the bay, where mainly young Māori women would trade sex for things like muskets, blankets and other supplies.

But European whalers brought venereal disease with them, and the firearms they sold led to the intertribal Musket Wars, which killed thousands of Māori.

As the century rolled on, arguments against prostitution focused on the spread of disease, and later, the "sins of promiscuity".

The first New Zealand laws to ban prostitution were passed in 1866, but that all changed in 2003 with the Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalised sex work.

The law gave sex workers the same rights as any other worker in New Zealand.

Previously, if a client gave them trouble they had no recourse because they were breaking the law themselves. Now, if you get out of line with a sex worker, they can call the police and sort you out.

Our model is very different from the Swedish model, which still views paying for sex as a criminal activity, in an effort to stem sex trafficking.

However, the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective says getting sex work decriminalised and out of the shadows is the best way to prevent that.

So, who's right? 

According to world bodies like the United Nations, World Health Organisation and Amnesty International we are. They point to New Zealand as a model that works.

Our system isn't perfect, but if the idea of decriminalising prostitution was to help better protect people in the sex industry, it looks like Aotearoa is accomplishing that.