New York State Strengthens Human Trafficking Law

CATW International April 6, 2015 USA

New York State Legislature Passes the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Commends the New York State Assembly for Unanimously Passing the TVPJA

New York, March 17, 2015 - The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) applauds the New York State Assembly, under Speaker Carl E. Heastie's leadership, for voting unanimously to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) on March 16, 2015. Sponsored by Assembly member Amy Paulin and Senator Andrew Lanza, the TVPJA is a comprehensive law that strengthens the 2007 New York State Human Trafficking Act by expanding protections and creating more services for victims, as well as increasing penalties for traffickers and other exploiters.

"We are thrilled that after three years of difficult negotiations we can celebrate the passage of the TVPJA," said Taina Bien-Aimé, CATW's executive director, "Of all the powerful voices supporting this bill, those of the survivors were key in educating legislators about the violent crimes perpetrated against them at the hands of their traffickers, pimps and buyers. New York has taken a gigantic step toward understanding, preventing and punishing exploitation." 

Upon the signature of New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo, the TVPJA will:

  • Increase penalties by making sex trafficking a Class B violent felony and creating the new offense of aggravated labor trafficking. Additionally, in certain cases, the new law will classify labor trafficking as a Class D violent felony.
  • Align the penalties for buying sex from a minor with those for statutory rape; and knowledge - or lack thereof - of the child's age is not a defense.
  • Establish sex trafficking as an affirmative defense to prostitution.
  • Provide a civil remedy for victims to recover damages and reasonable attorney's fees from their exploiters.
  • Develop protocols to increase law enforcement's awareness to better identify and assist human trafficking victims.Eliminate the stigmatizing word "prostitute" used in the New York Penal Code and replace it with the term "person for prostitution.
In addition to the trafficking survivors, a significant number of advocacy and direct services organizations, including Sanctuary for Families, GEMS and the National Organization for Women-New York City and New York State joined efforts to vigorously push for the TVPJA's successful passage.  

"NOW members throughout New York City and the state tirelessly campaigned for the passage of this critical legislation," said Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW New York. "We thank our members, allies and the New York legislature for advancing the cause.Today New York is in a better position to fight the epidemic of human trafficking."