Women’s Rights Group Combatting Human Trafficking Applauds Manhattan District Attorney Move
New policy decriminalizes people in prostitution and maintains accountability for sex buyers, bringing Equality Model to borough
New York, April 22, 2021 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), an international organization based in New York, applauds the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr.’s groundbreaking decision, announced on April 21, to implement a policy to “decline-to-prosecute” people in prostitution, including those in illicit “massage parlors.” The organization also welcomes the District Attorney’s move to dismiss over 900 prostitution and unlicensed massage cases and related convictions, some dating back to the 1970s. In addition, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office vacated thousands of loitering for purposes of prostitution cases in accordance with New York State’s recent repeal of the statute popularly known as “Walking While Trans” ban — which CATW supported.
“After years of collective advocacy and outreach, we are thrilled that the Manhattan D.A.’s office is recognizing that people bought in prostitution and illicit massage businesses, who are overwhelmingly marginalized women and trans women of color, need comprehensive services, not criminalization,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of CATW. “We also commend D.A. Vance’s acknowledgment that sex buyers are key actors in upholding the sex trade who must continue to be held accountable under the law for the harmful acts they perpetrate against those they purchase.”
The Manhattan D.A.’s new policy de facto implements a progressive legal framework known as the Nordic or Equality Model, which acknowledges that the system of prostitution thrives on acute exploitation and is a barrier to justice and equality. To bring the Equality Model to New York State, Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Pamela Hunter sponsored the Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act (S6040/A7069). The pillars of the bill rest on the decriminalization of prostituted individuals while offering them access to comprehensive services; maintaining penalties against sex buyers, pimps and traffickers for the lifelong harm they cause; and public education about the foundations of the sex trade, which relies on sex, gender, racial and economic inequalities. It will also be a key tool in preventing sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, especially of women and girls, and making New York a state that realizes human rights for all.