New Zealand former sex worker becomes a dame in Queen’s birthday honours


Catherine Healy, who helped decriminalise prostitution, honoured with an Order of Merit for services to the rights of sex workers. When New Zealand police arrested Catherine Healy after raiding the Wellington brothel she worked in during the 1980s, it was impossible to imagine that one day she would be recognised by the Queen for her services to the industry. “It could have never happened in our minds,” Healy told the Guardian. “It couldn’t have happened in my mind even a couple of weeks ago.”For years she and her fellow sex workers fought stigma while campaigning for greater rights and recognition.

On Monday, Healy was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the rights of sex workers. “I was very daunted and found it very hard to believe,” she said. “You look around and there are many people I admire and you kind of figure out where you fit in society. I did not ever think this was a possibility.”

In 1986, Healy helped found the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, an organisation that supports sex workers’ rights. “Back then, I remember reading stories that spoke about us, but journalists never spoke to us. It was just so disrespectful.” Now the landscape has changed. She helped develop a bill alongside politicians that would decriminalise the work and safeguard sex workers’ rights. Healy was in the public gallery in 2003, when the bill passed in parliament by a single vote.(theguardian)…[+]