• Decrim NY

Decriminalization best protects people in the sex trades, particularly trans people & survivors

For Immediate Release: Decriminalization best protects people in the sex trades, particularly trafficking survivors and trans people

Anti-Decrim Ny protest today included transphobic messaging; protestors sexually harassed sex worker counter-protester

Contact: Nina Luo 636-288-8279 or nina@vocal-ny.org

For comment from Senator Jessica Ramos: Julia @ 973-647-5922 or jarredondo715@gmail.com

For comment from Senator Julia Salazar: Michael @ 612-356-7160 or michaelcarter@salazarforsenate.com

Monday, March 11 at 2 pm

New York, NY -- After the heavily attended and publicized launch of Decrim NY in February, a group announced a rally in opposition.

The Decrim NY coalition is made up of people in the sex trades and survivors of trafficking, immigrants, trans and gender non-conforming people, public defenders, community organizers, and human rights activists. We are advocating for policy that decriminalizes all people who are harmed by anti-prostitution laws in New York state and maintains laws that will hold trafficker and exploitative managers accountable. Decrim NY works to end violence, not just for sex workers but for survivors of exploitation. Decriminalization does not make rape, trafficking, assault or any form of violence or exploitation legal. The bill will explicitly build in protections for people trading sex, especially trafficking survivors, so they have recourse against violence and exploitation.

Today, “End Demand” groups voiced support for “The Nordic Model,” which targets, arrests, and incarcerates clients of sex workers, as well as drivers, landlords, family members, partners, who provide services and care to sex workers, and sex workers collaborating to keep each other safe. The Nordic Model is criminalization, and it puts people who trade sex at increased risk of violence, economic instability, and labor exploitation. The protest included transphobic messaging such as “we object to transgenderism.” Decrim NY centers people of trans and gender non-conforming experience because TGNC people face widespread discrimination and violence both in and outside of the sex trades.

“Trans people are people. Black and brown trans communities have been historically erased and enough is enough,” said Mateo Guerrero-Tabares, trans advocate, Popular Education Coordinator at Make the Road NY and Decrim NY Steering Committee member. “I’m not surprised the trans community was targeted here. We fight to decriminalize the sex trades because it is a matter of survival for our community.”

“As a formerly undocumented trans woman of color, I know what I need to be safe from violence and exploitation,” said Bianey Garcia, former sex worker, trafficking survivor, TGNCIQ Justice Organizer at Make the Road New York, and member of Decrim NY’s Steering Committee. “This economy doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes, sex work is the best option for people like me. That’s my choice. And criminalizing our clients, housing, loved ones, and the sex workers we collaborate with to keep each other safe means taking away our only means of survival.

Decrim NY made the decision not to counterprotest the rally because sex workers and trafficking survivors in the coalition did not want to experience violence or stigmatizing language at the protest. Though Decrim NY did not counterprotest the rally, two unaffiliated counter-protesters showed up with signs. “End Demand” attendees mobbed and shoved one of the counter-protesters, who is a sex worker. A Decrim NY coalition member who was witnessing the rally stepped in to de-escalate.

“I saw one of the End Demand people touch the sex worker under her breast, and I said “don’t touch her, we need to respect boundaries and people’s right to speak freely.” Rather than saying that she may have mistakenly touched her, she instead said “I thought you liked to be touched,’” said Saye Joseph, Decrim NY coalition member. “I then responded by saying “that is sexual assault and you are perpetuating violence not trying to end it.” This cavalier attitude toward sexual harassment shows how much End Demand groups actually care about sexual violence – they don’t.”

The other counter-protester was harassed by an NYPD detective who forcibly took her sign away, which is unheard of.

“He put both of his hands on me and forcibly moved me and took my sign away,” said the counter protester, Viv. “As a black woman, it is no surprise to me that I experienced violent policing at an End Demand rally that promotes policing.”

Anti-trafficking organizations such as Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and Freedom Network USA recommend decriminalization as a best practice to fight trafficking because criminalization creates conditions that enable and cause trafficking, including social isolation from family and community, vulnerability to police abuse, criminal records, eviction, deportation, and reduced ability to organize and negotiate for safer working conditions. Far too often, exploiters use state violence and the threat of arrest and deportation as tools to silence and force submission.

“I am the proud State Senator for the largest transgender community in this country. I have seen sex workers on Roosevelt Avenue my entire life and I have seen how many of my neighbors denigrate them. The bottom line is: Sex work is work! The world’s oldest profession isn’t going away any time soon, and over-policing has only further marginalized our most vulnerable communities,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, Chair of the Committee on Labor. “Decriminalizing sex work will protect sex workers from exploitation, allow them to seek protection from trafficking, and will help victims of sex trafficking seek justice. This movement is about creating equity on every level: racial equity, gender equity, and economic equity.

Decrim NY’s launch in February has led to a rich public dialogue about the sex trades and the various criminal legal and regulatory frameworks to best address the safety of women, immigrants/migrants, and LGBTQ people, particularly survivors of trafficking. As a coalition led by sex workers and trafficking survivors who know what we need to be free from violence and exploitation, we welcome support for ending the criminalization of sex workers. We urge our elected officials to advocate with us for decriminalizing the sex trades. Decriminalization is the best way to protect the health, safety, and liberty of people in the sex trades, including survivors of trafficking.

“Thank you to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for calling to decriminalize the workers in the sex trades,” said Senator Julia Salazar, Chair of the Committee on Women’s Health. “We invite Congresswoman Maloney to sit down with sex workers and trafficking survivors in our district to hear from them directly the policies they want to live free from violence and exploitation.” The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the World Health Organization, Freedom Network USA, and Amnesty International have all issued evidence-based reports and statements directly in favor of the full decriminalization of the sex trades. We wholeheartedly support Amnesty International’s statement that “Criminalization of sex work can hinder the fight against trafficking – for example, victims may be reluctant to come forward if they fear the police will take action against them for selling sex. Where sex work is criminalized, sex workers are also excluded from workplace protections which could increase oversight and help identify and prevent trafficking...Decriminalizing sex work would not mean removing criminal penalties for trafficking. Trafficking is an abhorrent human rights abuse. States must have laws in place which criminalize trafficking, and use them effectively to protect victims and bring traffickers to justice.”

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