Sex Work May Be Decriminalized in New York State
But does this really mean safety for all sex workers?
After a long fight for the rights of sex workers, legislation in New York State is considering decriminalization. According to The Guardian, two bills are being reviewed as a possible approach to the issue: The Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act and The Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act. Although full decriminalization is a hopeful result, it also comes with its own issues.
Before diving into this discussion, it’s important to note that sex workers are highly aware of the fact that their work is dangerous and exposes them to the constant risk of violence. The fight for legalizing sex work is an attempt to unionize and create systems that allow for support when facing workplace issues.
As for the bills that are being considered, they will both legalize sex work, but each will do so differently. ”The Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act seeks to fully legalize the sex trade. The Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act, which is adapted from the Nordic model, would decriminalize sex workers while keeping in place laws penalizing pimps and clients,” Geoffrey Mak writes in the Guardian article.
Decriminalization can provide a safer work environment as sex workers constantly face police brutality. For example, in 2017, a massage parlor in Flushing, Queens was raided, which resulted in a sex worker falling off of a second-floor balcony. In another case in 2018, members of the NYPD were providing protection to a trafficking ring that infiltrated several boroughs. The population’s most vulnerable to sex-work-related police brutality are women, poor people, people of color, immigrants and trans people.
The issue of sex trafficking should not be ignored when it comes to decriminalizing sex work. As a result, the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act may not be the best. Although one area of sex work is consensual while the other exploits, the effects of any decriminalization affect trafficked youth directly. As Mak says, “The Stop Violence bill might be more ideologically photogenic, but its opponents worry that full decriminalization might provide loopholes – or a carte blanche – for sex trafficking, a prospect that supporters of the Stop Violence bill don’t seem to acknowledge.”