State legislators consider decriminalizing prostitution

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campaigning sex worker

The tattoo of an escort, Lana Marciano, canvassing with sex workers and allies for Julia Salazar’s 2018 election campaign in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Legislators in New York state have reintroduced past measures in the State Senate and the Assembly to decriminalize sex work.

The bills—S6419 in the Senate and A8230 in the Assembly—that would decriminalize prostitution are backed by Sens. Julia Salazar, Robert Jackson, Luis Sepúlveda, and Jessica Ramos. From the Assembly, members Richard Gottfried, Dan Quart, and Catalina Cruz round out the measures’ support. All six legislators represent New York City.

The measures would maintain laws that relate to trafficking and consent and expunge the prior convictions of individuals prosecuted for sex work.

New York could become the first state in the union to pass legislation to decriminalize sex work, provided a version of these bills makes it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

Last year’s versions of the bill did not make it out of committee, as reforms to sex work address a highly contentious issue.

Research shows that criminal prosecutions disproportionately affect low-income, female sex workers while ignoring their patrons. Although these measures would signal a powerful progressive message, criticism comes from both sides of the aisle.

Beyond fundamental, moralistic arguments, some studies suggest that decriminalization has no practical effect on the rates of violent crime or trafficking of minors. Legislators and constituents alike are wary of making New York a sex tourism destination.

Even progressive critics of the bills say they lack the nuance of adequate built-in safeguards that would address potential concerns.

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