Buzzfeed News reports that a group of progressive New York state legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize sex work in the state. The bill, titled the Stop Violence in Sex Trades Act, would repeal penalties for selling and buying sex as well as update New York state law referring to prostitution.
Among other provisions, most misdemeanor charges related to prostitution would be repealed, including charges related to “pimping” which legislators say will ensure that sex workers are not criminalized for supporting each other. No changes would be made to the sections of the penal code referring to sex trafficking and offenses relating to minors, which would stay illegal.
The legislation was introduced by New York state assembly members Richard Gottfried and Yuh-Line Niou and was co-sponsored by Ron Kim, Dan Quart, and Catalina Cruz. Legislators drafted the bill in collaboration with organizations such as Decrim NY. Other bills regarding sex work in New York, such as the repeal of an anti-prostitution loitering law, are still making their way through the legislature.
The issue of decriminalization is still controversial, even among Democrats and those on the left, with only 3 of the 23 Democratic presidential candidates saying they would support decriminalization. Decriminalization has also been staunchly opposed by religious organization, anti-trafficking activists, and some feminists such as Gloria Steinem. However, sex workers have remained consistently vocal and active in their calls for decriminalization.