New Zealand's parliament has voted to
legalise prostitution by a margin of just one vote.
A legal framework will now be established for the sex industry
Members of Parliament voted 60-59 in favour of the bill, ending three years of heated debate.
As well as decriminalising prostitution, the new law will establish a legal framework for the sex industry, with licensed brothels operating under strict health, safety and employment guidelines.
Labour MP Tim Barnett, who proposed the bill, used his concluding speech to urge parliament to remove what he called the outdated, biased and largely unenforced regulations in New Zealand at the moment.
"Current law around prostitution wasn't designed to ensure the
well-being of sex workers. It was planned around what I call a Kiwi
prohibition," he said.
He also said that there was no consistency under the current system, with the state being able to license massage parlours "knowing they are fronts for prostitution".
Many of the MPs who voted against the proposal were concerned that the bill would increase the number of prostitutes in the country.
"We must judge this not on whether it is good for sex workers,
but whether it is good for New Zealand society," said National MP Nick Smith.
"Sex should not be for sale. Prostitution is nothing more than
paid rape," he added.
But transgender Labour MP Georgina Beyer, a former prostitute, said: "If I'd had a law like this to protect me when I was 16 or 17, to give me teeth for redress, then I may have been spared the five or so years I spent in the industry."
"This is about accepting what occurs, about accepting that the people who work in this industry deserve some human rights," the New Zealand Herald newspaper quoted her as saying.