A new bill that would decriminalize sex work in New York — while still holding pimps and buyers accountable — is set to be introduced in the state senate this week, The Post has learned.
Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who is slated to announce the bill Monday morning, created the legislation with the assistance of sex trade survivors and advocates who want to make sure workers are given help instead of a jail cell.
“Finally we are recognizing that the sex trade is not a safe place for our community and we are recognizing that surviving is not enough,” Cristian Eduardo, a sex and labor trafficking survivor who helped create the bill, told The Post.
“This bill was created by listening and believing [in] survivors, that is what the amazing part of this is. In other spaces, a lot of times survivors of the sex trade, survivors of human trafficking, survivors of prostitution, they are not listened to… we need a rite of change in the criminal justice system and how to achieve that in a policy way is by listening to survivors.”
The bill is inspired by the “equality model,” which aims to decriminalize people in prostitution while still keeping sex buying, trafficking and brothel owning illegal. That’s in contrast to complete decriminalization, which would green light all aspects of the sex trade.
Krueger, who’s been working on the issue for over a year, said the vast majority of people who enter the trade are young people of color who sell their bodies out of coercion or economic desperation, not because they want to.
“I think the real issue is we don’t want to have throwaway people and so many of the young people I’ve spoken to feel like they’ve been thrown way and no one cares if they spend their life in a form of slavery,” Krueger told The Post.
“We want to make sure that instead of criminal penalties and jail, we are providing healthcare, mental health care, services to get them out of the life and into better options for themselves…. generations of young people’s lives are being destroyed when we could be helping them.”
Alexi Meyers, an attorney with Sanctuary for Families who helped write the legislation, said the bill addresses a number of problems plaguing those in the sex trade and those who’ve left.
It includes broader access to social services and a shield against a “promoting prostitution” charge for those currently in the trade, and will prohibit the use of condoms as evidence in criminal trials.
Currently, johns who buy sex from kids under age 15 — or from anyone under the age of 18 in a school zone — are allowed to use an “ignorance defense” claiming they didn’t know the kid was underage. Krueger’s bill would do away with that, while also creating new ways to target sex buyers.
While the bill wouldn’t lessen the crime of patronizing a prostitute, it would target buyers with deeper pockets by creating an income-based fee scale with fines up to $50,000 instead of jail time — which most johns are already unlikely to see for the misdemeanor offense.
The bill would also extend new protections to workers in illicit massage parlors. Currently, they are often arrested and charged with unlicensed practice of a profession, even if they are there against their will. Under Krueger’s bill, if police suspect evidence of exploitation, cops would be required to immediately refer the person to a service provider instead of cuffing them.
Krueger admitted the bill is “controversial” because there is a large coalition of people who want prostitution to be completely decriminalized — and it’s in direct competition to legislation introduced by Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) in 2019.
Salazar and Gottfried want all aspects of the sex trade to be completely legalized so sex workers can be free to do business safely without them or their clients fearing arrest, they’ve said previously.
“I think my approach is more realistic as an option,” the senator said.