Women forced back to the sex trade at Level 2

The sex trade can restart its in-person operations under Level 2, government announced yesterday, without providing any specific guidance to keep women or punters in the trade safe from the COVID virus.

“Women are being forced back into brothels with no guidance on safety from the government,” says Michelle Mara, a co-founder of the survivor-led organisation Wahine Toa Rising. “Guidelines released yesterday for other industries which include close personal proximity, such as  hair and nail salons, are completely inadequate for the sex trade,” she says..

With free retraining and 11,000 new jobs announced in yesterday’s Budget, now could also a good time for the many women who wish to exit the sex trade to do that, she says.

“The government must start funding exit services, so women who want out can get support while they work through that process. It needs to be made clear that refusing to work in the sex trade doesn’t affect anyone’s entitlement to a WINZ benefit, for example. Instead, they play along with the pretence that it is “work like any other” but it isn’t. New Zealand needs to provide an alternative solution rather than maintaining existing frameworks that do not help the most vulnerable”, says Ms Mara.

Wahine Toa Rising is here as a voice for those that cannot speak. We are here to advocate and support. We desperately need exit services to help women and girls who wish to exit prostitution. Given the current conditions surrounding COVID-19, we call on the government and existing agencies to start to put these exit services in place. There are so many women and girls who want and need them.


Women that need support during this time can contact us here via messenger.

Media Contact: 0275261134

Wahine Toa Rising is a voice for vulnerable, exploited women and children in Aotearoa/New Zealand,who are overrepresented in the sex trade.