On March 1, 2023, 90 sex workers and advocates gathered at the state capital in Albany, New York, to lobby for SVSTA (Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act), a bill to fully decriminalize sex work in the state of New York. DecrimNY, a coalition of 30+ sex worker-led organizations, marshaled the event. “Comprehensive decriminalization enables sex workers to negotiate condom use and work collaboratively without the fear of criminalization,” said SX Noir, leader of DecrimNY. “It also enables sex workers to seek medical and legal help without fear of economic consequences or legal repercussions.” SVSTA is evidence-based and crafted by sex workers, who want long-overdue input on the laws governing their work and shaping their lives. Unfortunately, despite its merits, the bill has been gummed up in the legislative process.
This is SVSTA’s third introduction to New York’s general assembly since 2019, but it has yet to move out of the Senate Codes Committee. Each time the bill’s lead sponsor has been New York senator Julia Salazar, a vocal supporter of sex work decriminalization. At the lobby day in Albany, advocates met individually with state representatives to campaign for SVSTA in the hopes of garnering enough support for a senate vote. Some representatives are on board, such as assembly members Catalina Cruz, Chantel Jackson and Jessica González-Rojas. Speaking at a press conference called by DecrimNY, Senator González-Rojas said, “If sex work is how you pay your bills, how you feed your family and how you survive, we should be making it safer and not more dangerous for you to do so.” But it seems that this support is not yet widespread among legislators. Sex workers hope to change that through lobbying—sharing their stories, answering questions and putting a human face on the issue.