New York State Legalizing Prostitution

New York State Legalizing Prostitution

New York would be the first U.S. state to move beyond the archaic notion of women in prostitution as drivers of the industry, guilty of inciting innocent men to commit sinful acts. The responsibility for sex trafficking lies with buyers, who create demand for the commercialization of women, and the surrounding multi-billion dollar industry, which thrives on its exploitation. Those provided by a supply chain to meet this demand – mostly women and mostly women of color – should be protected rather than prosecuted. At 1:30 p.m., we gathered for a video press release in which Senator Krueger and Representative Hunter spoke out in support of the “Justice and Equality for Survivors of the Sex Trade Act,” followed by statements from NYFEM members. Alexi Meyers, a former prosecutor and advisor to the Partial Decriminalization Act, told me that if the Stop Violence Act repealed a law that criminalized the “promotion of prostitution” (referring to pimps) at the level of crimes, it would take “the bread and butter out of human trafficking cases.” The bill proposes to maintain the most relevant laws at the level of crimes, such as combating trafficking in minors or promoting prostitution in school zones. Decriminalization aims to reduce the mistreatment of clients and pimps and break the vicious cycle of police violence, detention and deportation. “I have so many problems with the vice military force,” New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who helped fund the Stop Violence Act for full decriminalization, told me.

She accuses the police of doing too much or not enough. The assembled version of the bill passed in June 2020 but was never introduced in the Senate. The largely “progressive” NYFEM alliance reminds us that opposition to prostitution is not limited to conservative or radical feminists, even though major human rights organizations such as the ACLU and Amnesty have been co-opted by the ideology of “sex work.” Other attempts to decriminalize sex trafficking elsewhere in the U.S. have been crushed through the efforts of coalitions like NYFEM. Recently, in Oregon, a campaign to create a voting initiative that would allow Oregon residents to vote on decriminalizing sex trafficking was scrapped in part because attorneys for human trafficking survivors filed a lawsuit over language allegedly appearing on the ballot. This threatened the petitioners` ability to collect more than 112,000 signatures from Oregon voters by the July 8 deadline. Petition efforts have been postponed until a court decision is rendered. In Washington, D.C., efforts to decriminalize prostitution failed after a fourteen-hour hearing filled with references from female lawyers such as that of Yasmin Vafa, executive director of Rights4Girls, a Washington-based nonprofit.

Following the closure of brothels across Europe, 16 members of the German Bundestag recently supported our gender equality model and expressed hope that brothels will remain permanently closed when the country reopens. The marketing of prostitution in Germany illustrates the evils of prostitution – the “packages” of mega-brothels that advertise beer, hot dogs and women, commercialize and dehumanize women. They are humiliating, they have no power. It includes wider access to social services and a shield against “promoting prostitution” charges for those currently involved in trafficking, and will ban the use of condoms as evidence in criminal trials. Recognizing that sex trafficking is inherently harmful to those it exploits and to society as a whole, as a force that perpetuates inequality and exploits disadvantaged women in particular, should lead to effective exit strategies that replace exploitation with education and employment. It will be an effective way to promote gender equality, and I hope New York will be a progressive example for other states. There is evidence that arrests of sex workers in New York City may decrease on their own. The NYPD cites a general decline in prostitution-related arrests (including of buyers and pimps, as well as workers) in recent years. Arrests increased from 1,069 in 2019 to 193 in 2021. In an emailed statement, an NYPD spokesperson told me, “The NYPD`s law enforcement priorities changed in early 2017 and continued, resulting in fewer arrests of sex workers for prostitution in recent years and a greater proportion of arrests of those who buy sex and promote sex for sale.” “Sweden has seen a 50% drop in street prostitution.” In a statement, Vance, who recently announced he would not seek re-election, said his office made the decision not to prosecute prostitution cases following discussions with sex worker rights groups.

“Over the past decade, we have learned from those with lived experience and from our own experience on the ground: pursuing prostitution does not make us safer and too often achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” he said, adding that by dismissing cases and removing previous convictions, We are bringing “a paradigm shift in our approach” to sex work. Model laws on gender equality have already been implemented in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France and Israel. There is evidence that the gender equality model reduces the demand for prostitution. After the introduction of the equality model, Sweden saw a 50% decrease in street prostitution and a significant decrease in the number of men who bought sexual services within two years of the introduction of the law. In Norway, five years after the introduction of the equality model, street prostitution has decreased by 30 to 60 per cent and domestic prostitution by 10 to 20 per cent. For decades, Germany and the Netherlands have supported the legalization of prostitution, likely believing that this approach is beneficial to both those who sell in the sex industry and those who profit from the industry, such as pimps and brothel owners. Now that brothels have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the debate about the success of this approach is gaining visibility, and now is a good time to seriously address the issues raised. Approaches to prostitution vary considerably from country to country. Partial decriminalization, also known as the Nordic model, was first introduced by Sweden in 1999. Other countries have chosen to legalize sex, both for the sale and purchase of sexual services, with varying degrees of regulation. We must recognise that large numbers of prostituted people are victims of human trafficking, and we must not legitimise an industry that thrives on the exploitation and abuse of LGTBQI women, girls and people.

Under the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol, ratified by the United States and Sweden, we have an obligation under international law to respond to the demand for prostitution. Two prostitution bills introduced in the New York House and Senate illustrate the division of New York Democrats on women`s rights. A bill seeks to decriminalize all sex trafficking. The other follows the equality model, a legal model that views prostitution as exploitation. It aims to reduce and, ideally, eliminate sex trafficking by decriminalizing victims of prostitution while treating their exploiters as criminals, including sex buyers, brothel owners, pimps and other profiteers. My experience lobbying in Albany on these bills has shown a growing rift within the Democratic Party on this issue. According to the New York State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, there were about 1,000 confirmed victims of sex trafficking in New York between 2007 and 2019, a number that Meyers says is likely an undercount of actual victims. If the Stop Violence Act is passed, this number could increase.

A 2013 study of 150 countries showed that, on average, countries where prostitution is legal reported higher inflows of human trafficking across sectors. With regard to sex work alone, trafficking in human beings in Germany gradually decreased until 2001 and then increased again after decriminalisation in 2002. Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization of Women-NYC, condemned prostitution as a “meat trade” that causes “psychological, physical and spiritual harm.” So that men can continue to have access to sex whenever they want, with whom they want, how they want, on demand – as long as they have the money. She added: “#MeToo left these vulnerable New Yorkers behind. We held men accountable for sexual misconduct.

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