A group of former prostitutes has presented a petition to Parliament calling for a change to prostitution laws.
The group told the Justice and Electoral Committee on Thursday the decriminalisation of prostitution more than 10 years ago has failed them and others still in the industry.
Petition spokesperson Elizabeth Subritzky said decriminalising prostitution has not only encouraged more men to buy sex, but has also transformed prostitution into an acceptable job for young, poor women.
Ms Subritzky said the law should be changed to make the purchase of sex illegal to curb the demand and protect women.
She told the committee no other legalised industry in New Zealand has the violence that occurs in the sex industry.