The state of New York has become one of the first to introduce a new statewide bill that works to decriminalize sex work in efforts of combatting issues surrounding sex trafficking.
According to a press release from organizers at the Decrim NY coalition, The Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act is a legislative package that “decriminalizes and decarcerates” the sex trade in New York. If the bill gets passed, it would be the first measure in the country to legalize prostitution statewide.
“Sex work is work and should not be criminalized by the state,” state Sen. Julia Salazar (D) said at a Monday press conference. “Our current policies only empower traffickers and others who benefit from keeping sex work in the shadows,” Salazar added. “New York state needs to listen to sex workers and make these common-sense reforms to keep sex workers safe and empower sex workers in their workplaces.”
Current laws that criminalize the sale and purchase of sex between two consenting adults would be repealed under the new legislation while laws protecting victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, harassment, battery and statutory rape would stay in place.
The bill would also allow current sex workers and trafficking survivors to apply for the expunging of any criminal records they have related to prostitution. Additionally, the measure also expanded to include LGBTQ people, who participate in sex work at higher rates.
Bianey Garcia, a formerly undocumented transgender woman of color who was once a sex worker and is a trafficking survivor, spoke openly about how the new bill works to protect herself from violence and exploitation.
“This economy doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes, sex work is the best option for people like me. That’s my choice,” she said. “And criminalizing our clients, housing, loved ones, and the sex workers we collaborate with to keep each other safe means taking away our only means of survival.”
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