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Aug 20 2019

New York considers decriminalizing prostitution and patronizing

Several New York legislators proposed a bill to decriminalize sex work in the state. However, the proposal failed to gain traction as it was introduced in the closing days of the legislative session. The bill’s passage would have made New York the first U.S. state to largely decriminalize sex work.

The measure sought to legalize the buying and selling of sex among consenting adults under specific circumstances. It would repeal or amend sections of the penal code that prohibit prostitution, patronizing adult sex workers, and promoting prostitution in the third and fourth degrees. Strict penalties would remain in place for sex offenses related to minors or trafficking.

Senators Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar introduced the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act on June 10. It was drafted in collaboration with Decrim NY, an organization that advocates for sex worker rights.

The legislation also proposed regulating sex workers’ places of business to make working conditions safer. In addition, it would be possible for individuals with prior prostitution-related convictions to have their criminal records expunged.

Supporters of decriminalizing prostitution acknowledged the bill was controversial and likely to encounter many obstacles. However, they maintained that keeping sex work illegal perpetuates trafficking and violence. They hoped the proposal’s introduction would at least start a conversation about the issue.