Activists are urging New York state lawmakers to pass a new act that will help protect sex workers.
On Wednesday morning, more than 90 sex work advocates gathered in front of the Million Dollar Staircase inside the Albany Capitol Building to support the passing of the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (SVSTA), which would decriminalize adult consensual sex work and clear prior criminal convictions.
According to a press release issued by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the DecrimNY lobbying effort began with a press conference featuring New York Assemblymakers Jessica Gonzalez Rojas, Catalina Cruz, Phara Souffrant Forrest and Chantel Jackson, representatives from several advocacy organization, as well as several current and former sex workers. The activists then went on to meet with individual lawmakers throughout the day in order to educate them on the importance of decriminalization while debunking disinformation surrounding the sex trade, as perpetuated by federal legislation like FOSTA-SESTA.
As outlined in research gathered by the ACLU, decriminalization has proven to much better protect sex workers than the "Nordic model," which drives the industry underground by penalizing customers. This type of legislation has been linked to an increase in violence, abuse, exploitation and sex trafficking, while also contributing to negative encounters with law enforcement officials and a subsequent hesitation to report any crimes for fear of prosecution or deportation. Decriminalization has also been found to be an effective harm reduction tool, as it reduces rates of STI transmission by preventing healthcare providers from discriminating against sex workers.
This is the bill's third time in the New York State general assembly, where it's continued to remain in the New York Senate's code committee, despite having the support of numerous civil rights organizations dedicated to harm reduction, immigrant rights, LGBTQ+ equity and POC empowerment. If passed though, it will make New York the first to decriminalize sex work across the entire state.
Photo via Getty / Justin Tallis / AFP
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