May 24, 2019

Will New York Decriminalize Sex Work?

“TEARS WELLED UP in the eyes of many of the 150-plus people gathered in New York City’s Foley Square on Monday afternoon. Not all the tears came because of the frigid winds of the “bomb cyclone” blowing through the region. Instead, standing before the crowd, Cecilia Gentili almost began to cry because of the strides taken for the cause she was there to promote. “It feels surreal to be here, talking about this. It’s very emotional for me as a former sex worker,” said Gentili, an advocate for sex workers’ and transgender rights. “We will decriminalize sex work. We’re doing it.”

Behind Gentili stood more than 30 supporters of sex workers’ rights, holding protest signs bearing slogans like “Sex work is work” and “Arrests only save police budgets.” The rally and press conference marked the launch of the DecrimNY campaign that has a coalition of over 20 organizations pushing for the full decriminalization of sex work, the decarceration of sex workers, and the destigmatization of that most censured industry. The launch also celebrated the coming introduction in the New York State House and Senate of what DecrimNY described as “the most comprehensive state-level decriminalization bill in the country.

“This is one of the most taboo conversations for us to be having as a society,” New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos told the Foley Square rally. “And we are not going to stop.” Ramos will be introducing the decriminalization bill this spring alongside newly elected democratic socialist Sen. Julia Salazar, Sen. Brad Hoylman, and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, all Democrats.”

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