Lawmakers in the state of New York are making major strides to ignite a nationwide conversation about sex-related crime.
First marijuana and gambling, now many are wondering if prostitution could be the next big thing to be decriminalized. And on Monday, several lawmakers in New York began introducing bills to do just that.
The bills are seen as the state’s first to focus on decriminalization, not to mention the most comprehensive in the U.S. According to The New York Times, they also “expand upon recent attempts” made in other states and in Washington D.C.
If the bills are passed, they would allow consenting adults to pay for sex. This means decriminalizing both the selling and procurement of sexual services and promoting prostitution. The legislation maintains prohibitions on human trafficking and coercion, as well as sexual abuse of minors.
Of course, there’s no guarantee these measures will pass anytime in the near future. Governor Andrew Cuomo has not gotten behind the effort yet, and the legislative session ends next Wednesday.
The bills’ sponsors have made it clear that they see the past criminalization of prostitution as a mistake.
They explain that it has done more to hurt sex workers than help by driving prostitution “into the shadows.” Many have gone underground, where they’ve faced “increased violence, abuse, and exploitation,” due to the illegality of their work.
The lawmakers also say this has made prostitutes and other sex workers “more vulnerable to trafficking.”
Opponents, however, worry that decriminalization will increase the demand and encourage further underground sex trafficking.
Currently, prostitution is only legal in several Nevada counties.