Back in February, advocates for sex worker rights in New York announced their intention to fully decriminalize prostitution in the state. But no one really suspected then that within two weeks, Democratic candidates for president would be pledging support for competing legislative visions of what they called (at times, incorrectly) sex work decriminalization. Quite suddenly, the enlightened thing to do—or at least to say you were doing—was to support these measures, a development that came as a shock even to many sex workers who had long campaigned for decriminalization. On Monday, that same group of advocates, Decrim NY, will see a bill they have helped draft introduced in the state legislature that promises to give practical shape to the goals sex workers have pursued for several decades. The bill is groundbreaking for the United States: If passed, it would make New York the first state to fully decriminalize sex work.

The New Republic has had a first look at the bill. The measure removes criminal penalties associated with adults selling and buying sex, and repeals parts of the law that have criminalized sex workers’ places of business along with “loitering for prostitution” in public. Their aim is grounded not just in criminal justice reform, but in more fundamental appeals to economic justice. “This is not just about decriminalizing workers or the absence of criminal codes. It’s about making sure people who work in the sex trades have access to making a living in the sex industry in a way that is not a crime,” said Audacia Ray, a member of the Decrim NY steering committee, a director at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, and a former sex worker.

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A historic breakthrough fo Sex Workers’ Rights by Melissa Gira Grant

June 9th, 2019