New Zealand's decriminalisation of prostitution has been praised in a new United Nations report which suggests Pacific and Asian countries should follow its lead.
The 226-page UN Development Programme report, Sex Work and the Law, says there is no evidence that criminalising sex work has prevented the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
All countries in Asia and the Pacific, aside from New Zealand and the Australian state of New South Wales, criminalise sex work or acts associated with sex work.
The report says criminalisation increases vulnerability to HIV by fuelling stigma and discrimination, and limits access to sexual health services, condoms and harm reduction services.
It also adversely affects the self esteem of sex workers and their ability to make informed choices about their health.
On the other hand, the report says, decriminalisation policies in New Zealand and NSW "empowers sex workers, increases their access to HIV and sexual health services associated with very high condom use rates".
"Very low STI (sexually-transmitted infection) prevalence has been maintained among sex workers in New Zealand and NSW, and HIV transmission within the context of sex work is understood to be extremely low or non-existent," the report said.
It also praised legal recognition of sex work as legitimate labour which means workers are subject to the same general workplace health and safety laws and anti-discrimination protections as other industries.