Interview With NZPC Founder, Sex Work Activist & Former Sex Worker: Catherine Healy

1. When/Why did you establish NZPC?

We established NZPC in 1987 to support each other and to address the illegality of our work in the face of police arrests and the potential of HIV to affect our work. We were determined to make conditions related to our work safer and had to to build awareness that legislative change was needed for this to happen.

2. Do you directly work with sex workers’ Catherine?

Most of my work involves direct work with sex workers on a daily basis.

3. What is your stance on underage sex work?

NZ shifted its focus to one of protecting sex workers who are under the age of 18, as opposed to one of prosecuting these young people. This used to be the case before the law changed in 2003.

4. Do you know the current statistics of sex workers in NZ?

I’m aware there are thousands of people who are either sex workers, or who have been sex workers, and who live and work quietly in New Zealand. There are many more people who pay sex workers.

5. What services do NZPC offer?

We focus on working safely, and supporting sex workers to access relevant information which can assist them to do this. People who are considering sex work approach NZPC as do those who want to move away from sex work. We support all.

6. How could other people in society support NZPC?

We are aware there are many individuals and organisations who support NZPC by referring those sex workers who may not know about us, to us. This is important support.

7. What other organisations do NZPC work with besides Women’s Refuge?

We work with a tremendous variety of organisations from Family Planning Association to Sexual Health Services to the NZ AIDS Foundation as well as government organisations.

8. Tell me about your involvement in decriminalizing prostitution in NZ? This bill was passed in 2003?

NZPC was instrumental in pushing for the decriminalisation of sex work. I first presented to a select committee as a representative of NZPC calling for this change in 1989. Decriminalisation of sex work has improved the occupational safety and health of sex workers throughout NZ. Street based sex workers were most frequently arrested and convicted of soliciting and it was a demeaning experience.

9. Why do you think ‘sex work’ is still so stigmatized in modern society?

Sex work is stigmatised because non sex workers are not really listening to the diverse voices of sex workers, and are only happy when sex work is depicted as a horrible “empty” experience. Sex workers would say it’s a lot of different kinds of experiences and want to be treated normally, and not as some problem to be fixed.

10. What do you think of the word ‘WHORE’?

WHORE is understood by sex workers to mean, “We Honour Ourselves with Respect and Empowerment.” It is a word which has been reclaimed by sex workers everywhere.

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