Last month, New York became the first state to propose decriminalizing sex work state-wide. Other parts of the United States, such as some counties in Nevada, have decriminalized sex work, but New York’s proposed bill is the first to address it on a state level rather than by region. The bill incorporated new language, such as gender neutral wording, and would decriminalize sex work between adults while excluding any acts with a minor.
Advocates of the decriminalization bill argue that legalizing sex work is an important step in reducing the structual sexism and racism that sex workers face, particularly cis and trans women of color. Research has indicated that police often target trans women of color and use circumstantial evidence to arrest women sex workers — such as carrying condoms or wearing certain clothing.
Decrim NY, a New York City-based organization that works to decriminalize sex work, argues that the new bill will make sex work safer for those involved and will also make it easier to increase protection and services to people involved in sex work. Additionally, supporters argue that decrimalizing sex work allows those involved to have a steady, legal source of income without the fear of being arrested or discrimated by employers. There is discussion of decrimializing sex work nationally by several prominent Democrats, including presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, but there has been some backlash from different groups and individuals about decriminalizing sex work, with many citing that it would reduce accountability for traffickers and pimps. (The bill is currently still in committee at the state level.)
The proposed bill would decriminalize sex work for consenting adults, but retain laws pertaining to minors and sex trafficking. To learn more about trafficking, read our blog post on the subject. You can also request a professionals training on the intersection of dating abuse and the domestic sex trafficking of young people.