CATW ED Issues Statement Opposing NYS Bill That Would Fully Decriminalize the Sex Trade

CATW International June 20, 2019

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Opposes State Bill That Will Give a Green Light for the Sex Trade to Expand in New York

Proposed Legislation Calls for Decriminalization and Legalization of Pimping, Brothel Owning, Sex Tourism, and for Sex Buyers to Purchase Marginalized People in New York

New York, June 20, 2019 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) stands in strong opposition to Bill A 8230/S6419 introduced in the New York State Legislature by Assembly Members Richard Gottfried, Yuh-Line Niou, Ron Kim, Dan Quart and Catalina Cruz and State Senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar. CATW’s Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé has issued the following statement in light of the bill’s introduction:

“Ensuring that people in prostitution are not arrested or otherwise criminalized is essential as we fight for an end to gender-based violence, sexual assault, discrimination and inequality. While Bill A 8230/S6419 does propose to decriminalize those in prostitution, it shockingly removes all penalties from sex buyers, pimps (also defined as sex traffickers) and other third-party exploiters like brothel owners from the New York Penal Code. The bill even removes the prohibition of owning and operating sex tour agencies, a provision for which we fought hard in efforts to curb commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Survivors of the sex trade testify every day of the pervasive harms they experienced at the hands of sex buyers and commercial sexual exploiters. We know that the majority of individuals in prostitution belong to disenfranchised communities whose life journeys overwhelmingly include childhood sexual violence, incest, homelessness, time in foster care. They are often subjected to acute sex, gender and racial discrimination. Both their brave testimonies and evidence from the medical community inform us of the mental and physical health consequences they endure, often for the rest of their lives.

This bill calls for the wholesale decriminalization of the sex trade, which would not only exempt pimps and traffickers from accountability, but would also make New York State one of the profiteers of commercial sexual exploitation. Because the state would legalize every commercial sex establishment, from now-illicit massage parlors to brothels, through standard requirements of state incorporation and filing of taxes, New York State would become a financial beneficiary of the sex trade.

What these newly legal, New York State-registered businesses would sell to sex buyers are the most marginalized U.S.-born and undocumented immigrant women and transwomen, especially of color. Who would purchase them are men with disposable income who are looking to dehumanize and exert power and control over people who lack real choices in life.

The bill also repeals the provision on “promotion of prostitution” (pimping), the most effective provision prosecutors use to try cases of domestic sex trafficking. In fact, it was key to every successful prosecution of sex trafficking in the state. This bill would in effect gut New York State’s sex trafficking laws in one clean sweep.

Expunging criminal records for prostitution-related crimes committed by individuals in the sex trade is a key part of ensuring that they will be able to rebuild their lives. However, this bill also extends criminal record vacatur to anyone convicted under previous state prostitution laws. The effect is that domestic sex traffickers, who are convicted under promoting prostitution charges at the state and local level, could easily apply to clear their records.
 
The sex trade, including prostitution, is where sex trafficking happens. It is the end destination to which sex traffickers and pimps bring victims. Every dollar earned by traffickers and commercial sexual exploiters comes from the individuals who purchase sexual acts — the sex buyers. Any law that removes penalties from sex buyers will only allow the sex trade to further expand in our state, as it has in Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and other countries that have legalized or fully decriminalized prostitution.
 
CATW urges New York State lawmakers to carefully examine the devastating effects of fully decriminalizing prostitution, including promoting prostitution, brothel owning and the legalization of sex tourism, which this bill sets forth. Individuals surviving and who have survived the sex trade in New York deserve better than this proposed legislation."