Lawmakers and advocates debate legalization of sex work in New York City

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Last month, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she was considering a proposal to legalize sex work in the state. The move has long been encouraged by advocates who say it would empower sex workers and give them additional protections.

Early in her tenure, the Democrat told reporters she was speaking with advocates and was ready to address the issue during the legislative session that begins in January.

“This is absolutely something I have been thinking about and considering and discussing with my advocates and people with very strong opinions,” Hochul said in September.

There are two competing bills in the Legislative Assembly. We would completely decriminalize sex work. The other prohibits the police from charging sex workers, but still allows them to charge clients.

The chairman of the health committee, Dick Gottfried, is sponsoring the decriminalization bill in the Assembly. The Democrat of the 75e The district concedes that the measure does not yet have enough support to be adopted:

“I have seen people change their minds on many very difficult questions that you may not have expected. And sometimes change happens much faster than you might think. You know, we’ve seen it recently with same-sex marriage. So I think the governor brings up the topic and thinks about it is extremely important, ”Gottfried said.

Gottfried and State Senator Jessica Ramos’ New York Anti-Trafficking Network Bill would only apply to sex workers who are consenting adults.

The Assembly’s version of the bill was passed in June 2020, but never reached the state Senate floor.

Gottfried says her bill, rather than the version supported by MP Pamela Hunter and State Senator Liz Krueger, also Democrats, would be better for sex workers because it separates the sex trade from criminal justice. Krueger and Hunter did not respond to requests for comment.

Urban Justice Center sex worker project Andy Bowen agrees, saying there is no replacement for full decriminalization.

“People can make a living. At Sex Workers Project, we aim and make sure to support sex workers, whether they are active in the trade by choice, circumstance or duress. There are people who do sex work because it is a fulfilling and liberating activity that brings them joy. There are, you know, people who do sex work because it’s a survival activity, ”Bowen said. “It’s also valid just as much as someone who can work, you know, any particular job because it’s a job. So apart from interacting with the police, decriminalization is important in improving the lives of sex workers because it simply allows them to do the economic activity they need.

Critics argue that the complete decriminalization of sex work would make workers more vulnerable to harm. Others oppose it morally. Gottfried says New York’s approach to the issue has not worked so far.

“The current system has had a few thousand years to try to get it right. It is a failure, and it is time to recognize it. You know, sex work is about the only example I can think of where an activity that in itself is legal is made illegal if you charge for it, and I don’t think that makes any sense, “he said. -he declares.

Ceyenne Doroshow is Founder and Executive Director of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society Inc., based in Queens. She is also a former sex worker. Doroshow says there are pros and cons to decriminalization.

“Well, when I was a sex worker it was survival. At the same time, I was working for nonprofits that didn’t pay black trans women enough to survive, ”Doroshow said. “So what was I supposed to do?” Do the job of saving lives and being homeless, or doing sex work and saving lives so that I can have a roof over my head. ”

Doroshow also claims lawmakers did not ask the black community to participate in the bill. It was only earlier this year that New York State passed a ban on a law commonly referred to as “walking trans”, which critics say has been used by police to harass and arrest people. law-abiding trans people.

“When you think of these bills and laws that have been passed, how do these bills and laws help a black trans woman who still cannot walk. Although she is a black trans woman who is in need of housing and because she has a history of sex work, this record may prevent a landlord from taking them, “she said.” So, there are pros and cons that people don’t talk about or think about. – and they’ve been very silent around organizing black lives. “


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