June 10, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
A group of Democratic lawmakers, including State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, introduced a bill Monday that aims to decriminalize sex work and make the consensual sale of sex legal.
The bill, introduced in the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly, would amend the penal code so that people can trade sex in spaces where legal businesses are permitted.
People engaging in human trafficking, coercion, rape, assault, battery and sexual harassment would still be charged with felonies.
State Senator Jessica Ramos said the bill, titled Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, will protect many of her constitutents, since a sizeable number are involved in sex work for economic reasons.
“Decriminalizing sex work between consenting adults in New York will protect many of my neighbors — people who have found themselves in situations because of employment and housing discrimination,” Ramos, who co-sponsored the bill, said. “Sex work is work and everyone has an inherent right to a safe workplace.”
Prostitution is currently treated as a misdemeanor in New York and is punishable by up to three months in jail and $500 fine.
The bill would also provide sex workers and trafficking survivors with the ability to clear their criminal records for crimes that would be decriminalilzed by this legislation.
The legislation would also change the currently gendered penal code language to reflect the different gender identities of the LGBTQ community who participate in the sex trade as well.
The bill is unlikely to pass this legislative session, despite significant democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature. Ramos’ office said that the topic will require a lot of discussion to get legislators to sign on.
Decrim NY released results of a national poll that showed that progressive Democratic voters were mostly in favor of the legislation with 56 percent in support, 17 percent in opposition, and the remaining 27 percent being either neutral or unsure.
Other sponsors of this bill include Senate Women’s Health Committee Chair Julia Salazar, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried, and Assembly Asian Pacific American Task Force Co-Chair Yuh-Line Niou. Bill co-sponsors also include Assembly members Dan Quart and Ron Kim.