February 1, 2023
Senator Julia Salazar has introduced Senate Bill S4396, or the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in New York. The bill would decriminalize consensual adult prostitution offenses and amend provisions relating to the prosecution of such offenses and vacating judgments.
SVSTA’s co-sponsors include Senators Jabari Brisport, Kristen Gonzalez, Cordell Cleare, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, Gustavo Rivera, and Luis R. Sepúlveda.
The criminalization of sex work has jeopardized the lives of sex workers in New York for far too long. The criminalization of sex work is associated with increased risk of sexual and physical violence at the hands of clients, third parties, and domestic partners. Criminalization also encourages increased policing among vulnerable communities, resulting in arrests and police brutality. Studies conducted in New York have shown that prostitution-related arrests disproportionately affect Black, Asian, and Hispanic individuals.
SVSTA amends and repeals several existing statutes and penal codes so that consenting adults who trade sex, collaborate with, support, or patronize adult sex workers aren’t criminalized. In addition, the bill allows individuals to trade sex in spaces where legal business is permitted while upholding that maintaining exploitative workplaces where coercion and trafficking take place is a felony.
Presently, New York state law has more than two dozen anti-prostitution penal codes. About half of these codes target sex work between consenting adults, and the other half focus on trafficking, the exploitation of minors, and coercion into commercial sex. SVSTA upholds all felony anti-trafficking statutes that are designed to hold traffickers accountable.
SVSTA was first introduced in 2019, and advocates of decriminalization are pushing for its passage once again. Activists, advocates, and allies will gather in New York’s capital city of Albany on March 1 to lobby in support of the bill.
Decriminalize Sex Work (DSW) has been actively involved in DecrimNY, a coalition that has been working hard in preparation for the lobby day next week. In the weeks leading up to the event, DecrimNY has hosted a handful of virtual lobby trainings with the goal of preparing attendees. The trainings included background on sex work in New York and the positive impact that SVSTA would have, as well as a briefing on the legislative process, how lobbying works, and how to lobby effectively.
The passage of SVSTA would be monumental in the fight for the rights of sex workers and victims of human trafficking across New York, a battle that has been ongoing for many years.
The decriminalization of sex work is crucial to the health and safety of sex workers and their communities. The passage of SVSTA would be an enormous step forward for sex worker rights, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, and human rights in general.
Follow @decrimNY and @decrimsexwork on Instagram and @decrimNY and @DecrimSex on Twitter to keep up with lobby day updates. Show your support for SVSTA by sharing posts using the hashtag #SVSTA!