Shimal Sataiya, Waikato University
Co-author of 'Child Sex Trafficking in New Zealand: A Critical Analysis'
I can safely say that the issue of child sex trafficking is not a hot topic in the New Zealand media, you very rarely hear about this crime, so logically we have many people in New Zealand with the ideology that it does not occur in our nation. Unfortunately this is not the case.
I recently wrote a report on the analysis of the laws surrounding child sex trafficking and I believe that my findings would come as a shock to many. In its essence, the definition of trafficking consists of taking a person through various means for the purpose of exploitation; in this case sexual exploitation. In New Zealand when one mentions the phrase “trafficking”, the general understanding is that it is to abduct a child from an Asian country, bring them into New Zealand and force them to work in brothels. Of course this is trafficking, however the international definition of trafficking is a lot broader than the situation described. According to the United Nations Trafficking Protocol if one was to recruit a person under the age of 18 to work as a prostitute, then that is trafficking, regardless of consent. There have been reports of around 200 people, mainly girls, under 18 years of age, working as prostitutes in New Zealand; therefore, in accordance with the definition, trafficking does occur in New Zealand.
The New Zealand law is very unclear when dealing with the prostitution of girls under the age of 18. In addition to this I found other factors that the New Zealand law was missing when comparing with the Trafficking Protocol.
There are different sections in the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 and Crimes Act 1961 that fit parts of the definition of trafficking, making it very confusing to interpret and charge a person. The law must be clear, concise and easy to interpret for the judiciary and police force; however this is not the case.
My report has included a few options for the law in New Zealand drawn from Australia and the United Kingdom; both these jurisdictions have been praised for their concise definition which would benefit the New Zealand law should they choose to adopt it. There has been debate about whether New Zealand needs to change its laws in this area given it is not a pressing issue; however with the growing rate of this crime internationally and with trafficking of people being in the top three trades of the world, we cannot be ignorant to the fact that it may become a serious issue in New Zealand.
Developing efficient law will only strengthen New Zealand’s position in this area, and in my point of view there is no reason not to do that.