Sex workers lured to NZ with false promises, says Shortland Street actor

Stuff 11 March 2021
If you think Shortland Street’s latest storyline involving sex trafficking in Ferndale is far-fetched, think again.

“I was a bit taken aback by the extremity of the storyline,” says Chye-Ling Huang, who plays paramedic Theo on the show.

“I was like, ‘Really. Are we just trying to make a drama out of nothing?’ So I started doing research and found all this very unpleasant information.”

Information such as a 2019 American State Department report that describes New Zealand as a hot spot for sexual exploitation or that only last year, a Hawke’s Bay man was convicted on slavery and sex-trafficking charges.

“People are being brought in to New Zealand, lured by false promises,” Huang says.

“For example, lots of women are told that because sex work is not illegal in New Zealand, they’ll be able to basically have their visas arranged and be looked after and it won’t be dangerous because New Zealanders don’t have guns.”

Instead, official reports say the women are controlled by other means, including debt bondage, isolation, fear, and threats around their immigration status.

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