Karangahape Road in Auckland, commonly referred to as K Road, has a colorful history. In 1965, an inner-city highway was constructed that meant many people had to move out of the area – shops closed or moved to other parts of the city and K Road slowly became home to low rents and got a name as the red light district of Auckland. Today it is a trendy, artsy area but in years past it was known for its seedier side.
The Massage Parlours Act of 1978 allowed massage parlors to be a front for brothels but the law was a bit fuzzy – the parlors were considered public places and prostitutes couldn’t solicit in a public place so arrests still happened and things like running a brothel or living off prostitution earnings were illegal.
And then in 2003, New Zealand passed the Prostitution Reform Act which decriminalized brothels and soliciting. New Zealand now has one of the most liberal prostitution laws in the world – it not only legalizes it but the law ensures that sex workers have the same rights as those for other workplaces and that they have workplace protection and access to healthcare. In 2014, a prostitute even won a sexual harassment suit against a Wellington brothel owner – “In what is understood to be a world first, the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the young woman $25,000 in damages for emotional harm as a result of sexual harassment.”
Brothels and prostitutes have taken advantage of advances in technology just like other industries. They can advertise in classifieds here, they have created websites that use geo location to connect clients and workers, use Instagram and Twitter to connect, etc. Interestingly, there was an article online that mentioned that the number of brothel licenses is going down over time now – possibly in part to independent workers using technology to find their own clients and freelance.
When I first moved here, I was fascinated when driving down K Road and my partner pointed out the brothels that are there now because I probably wouldn’t have picked up that’s what they are if he hadn’t pointed it out. They’re pretty low key actually – most of the time you’ll see a somewhat discrete (but still sort of obvious) picture of a woman or a silhouette and what looks like a club with a bouncer at the door and the name of the bar.
There are also quite a few strip clubs in town — they are scattered around Auckland, including two in the block next door to my apartment. And I noticed a few weekends ago that one of the strip clubs a few blocks away has a special ‘Men of Steel’ show to add in a little equal opportunity.