Apr 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Manhattan to stop prosecuting prostitution

Picture of people carrying signs in support of decriminalizing sex work

Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced on Wednesday that his office would stop prosecuting prostitution, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The movement to decriminalize sex work has been gaining steam for the past couple of years.

  • The group Human Rights Watch argues, "Criminalizing adult, voluntary, and consensual sex — including the commercial exchange of sexual services — is incompatible with the human right to personal autonomy and privacy."

The big picture: Manhattan now joins a number of other jurisdictions that refuse to prosecute sex workers.

  • A Brooklyn judge last month dismissed 857 cases related to prostitution at the request of the borough's district attorney, according to the New York Post.
  • In Queens, the district attorney moved to dismiss almost 700 cases against people charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution — a law popularly known as "Walking While Trans" that was repealed in February.

Details: Vance asked a judge to dismiss 914 cases involving prostitution and unlicensed massage, as well as over 5,000 cases for loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

What they're saying: "Over the last decade we’ve learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: Criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers," Vance said, per The Times.

But, but, but: "The office will continue to prosecute other crimes related to prostitution, including patronizing sex workers and sex trafficking," The Times writes.

Worth noting: The New York legislature is currently in the process of considering the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act, legislation that would decriminalize prostitution and hold pimps, sex traffickers and buyers accountable.

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