In November 2019, New Yorkers for the Equality Model, a survivor-led alliance made up of more than 30 advocates, prostitution and sex trafficking survivors, and organizational partners, was officially launched. We kicked off our campaign with an educational event in New York City featuring our group’s Survivor Committee and a panel of experts.
Our goal is to bring the Equality Model to New York State. This means we are calling for a New York State law that will decriminalize people in prostitution and provide comprehensive services for them, including housing, medical care, trauma-informed counseling, education, job training, and ways to exit the sex trade should they wish to do so. At the same time, the law will hold those who cause harm in prostitution accountable by penalizing sex buyers and continuing to criminalize pimps and traffickers.
How did it all start?
In February 2019, New York State Senators Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried began to call for legislation to decriminalize prostitution, including pimps and sex buyers, in New York. They indicated plans to introduce a bill in the 2019 session (the bill was ultimately introduced the last week of the session). Alarmed by their proposal, we joined other New York-based organizations to oppose any regressive laws and policies that would allow the sex trade to grow exponentially and harm the health and well-being of so many women, girls and marginalized people. One of our members directly responded to the legislators call in a powerful op-ed in the New York Daily News.
Inspired by the conversations we were having with our New York community and led by our shared vision of equality for all, we realized we could make even more change happen for our state by addressing the exploitative and unequal system that is the sex trade with a progressive alternative to current state laws and the lawmakers’ proposal. New Yorkers for the Equality Model was born.
Our Progress to Date
Over the past year, even before we officially launched, our efforts as a coalition have already proven effective. We’ve rallied to publicly highlight the realities of the sex trade and the lifelong harm and trauma it causes people in prostitution. Our members have written opinion pieces and reached out to New Yorkers to explain why prostitution is not a victimless crime. We’ve spoken to state and city lawmakers to discuss the effects of legalized/decriminalized prostitution in other jurisdictions and draw connections to what can happen if New York gives the sex trade a green light to flourish. We’ve emphasized why the Equality Model is the right choice for our State. As a result, some legislators changed their minds about the full decriminalization proposal, some affirmed their position against it and others became convinced the Equality Model is the right step for New York City and State.
In fact, while discussing his commitment to criminal justice reform, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson acknowledged the need to address the sex trade with progressive policies and declared his support for the Equality Model. He also pledged his commitment to opening a center that will provide wrap-around services to individuals in the sex trade. We look forward to working with the Speaker on this and other laws and policies that make the Equality Model a reality in New York City.
Our efforts this year also secured sponsors for an Equality Model bill in both the New York State Senate and Assembly. We are thrilled to be working with Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright and Senator Liz Krueger in this effort to write and introduce the bill in the 2020 legislative session.
But to make sure the Equality Model becomes a reality in New York State, we need your help! Our website is live with lots of information and resources. We are also active on Twitter and Instagram, so please follow and engage with us. If you are ready to voice your support for our vision, you can sign a statement endorsing the Equality Model. We are also raising funds for the Survivor Fund. All contributions will go directly to ensuring that survivor leaders are able to be at events speaking with the public and at the table for these important legislative and policy discussions.
This is just the beginning. With our partners and you, our fellow New Yorkers, we’ll continue fighting for a New York that lives up to its promise of equality for all.