We have come a long way to addressing the issues of sex work and defining concepts when discussing the matter. However, the problems with sex work still exists. To mitigate these problems, we need to understand who the victims of sex work are and who are the perpetrators. To this day, several aspects of sex work are still criminalized. Sex workers are being charged with prostitution, which is unfair because they are often doing this without a choice. Sex work must be observed through a different lens which would explain the myriad of reasons why sex work continues to proliferate around the world, thus allowing us to examine why sex workers are consistently charged, while their other participants in the sex industry are not. Not only that, the pimps and buyers are not normally held accountable or recognized as criminals and sex workers are often forced to work, making them the victims.
With that being said, New York state lawmakers are considering legislation that would ensure victims of sex trafficking are protected while holding the perpetrators that exploit them accountable. This legislation, called The Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act, was introduced by Senator Liz Krueger. The act follows closely to the “Nordic Model” or “Equality Model,” which states the belief of having the perpetrators of sex trafficking charged and not the victims of sex trafficking. It would also make New York the first state in the United States to implement an “Equality Model” legislation. According to Thompson, who was a victim of sex trafficking, having aftercare resources is essential for victims of sex trafficking. Resources that should be offered to victims are health care, mental healthcare, and other services like educational opportunities, housing services, and financial support that would aid them to develop better options in life. As aforementioned pimps and buyers are not held accountable and that is because they can claim “ignorance defense” even when the victim is under 15. This new legislation is a step in the right direction as it would not allow the ignorance defense as an excuse and would expunge records for victims of sex trafficking. It is crucial to implement the “Nordic model” into legislation because it recognizes that victims of sex trafficking are not the criminals.
After the act was introduced, it was recognized to be “controversial.” This was due to multiple coalitions wanting prostitution to be completely decriminalized. However, as aforementioned, decriminalization would mean that the pimps and buyers would not be held accountable in sex trafficking. Furthermore, decriminalization diminishes the severity of sex trafficking. Despite the wishes of those coalitions, the act does an amazing job of recognizing and establishing the importance of the “Nordic Model.” There are some legislators that are in favor with those coalitions, like having all aspects of sex trade legalized, but that becomes tricky with defining terms. Recognizing the different terms in sex work is essential because without recognition, it takes away the significance of the issue. When discussing the term sex work, it refers to the consensual exchange of sex between adults. This means it does not include human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. With that in mind, the act should establish those terms accordingly.
Sumaya Nasir is a current senior at Hunter College pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and certificate in Public Policy, and minoring in Human Rights. She is currently a member of the JFEW Eleanor Roosevelt Scholars program. After graduation, she hopes to receive a Juris Doctor degree. Sumaya aspires to become a criminal defense attorney to ensure all people get a fair trial and to aid undocumented people.