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Breakdown: The Equality Model

You’ve heard us talk a lot about the Equality Model & the importance of this incredible survivor-informed legislation, but it's time for us to break it down. The Equality Model is a tool to combat commercial sex exploitation, the buying and selling of bodies for sex, while promoting the well-being and equality of women and girls. At its core, the Equality Model focuses on decriminalizing those who are trafficked or prostituted while holding their traffickers, pimps, and buyers accountable for the harm they’ve inflicted. It includes providing people in prostitution much needed services, whether it be housing, medical care, trauma-competent counseling, education, job training – all coming together to create an exit path from the sex trade when prostituted or trafficked people wish to do so. It puts choice back in the hands of those exploited while still penalizing their exploiters.

Why Not Full Legalization?

Legalization increases the demand, causing the overall sex trade to grow. In Germany, where sex-buying has been legal since 2002, over 1 million men buy sex there everyday, and over 150,000 people prostituted across 500 brothels in Berlin alone. To be clear, Germany does not have 150,000 willing and consenting people to sell this sex, instead they’re abused and exploited by traffickers, pimps, brothel owners, and buyers. There will never be enough consenting adults to fill the demand of a legalized sex trade. Traffickers instead will target vulnerable populations, often black and brown girls, and exploit them to meet that demand.

The Harms Of Prostitution

Within the sex trade, the bodies and souls of people are abused time and time again. People in the sex trade are outcasted, harassed, and mistreated by their traffickers, buyers, and the system – all leading to high rates of mental health issues. They suffer from higher rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

From the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Beyond the psychological wounds of being bought and sold, people in the sex trade face violence on a daily basis. From the article, Prostitution is Not Just Another Job, “60% of women have been physically assaulted, 40% have suffered sexual violence, and 40% were coerced into the commercial sex trade. Women involved in street prostitution are 60 to 100 times more likely to be murdered than are non-prostituted females.” No matter how you frame it, the sex trade – trafficking and prostitution – causes extreme levels of gender-based violence and even femicide, the hateful, intentional killing of women and girls because of their gender.

New York’s Approach

For the past 3 years, New York State has received an F on the report card created by Shared Hope in regards to how the state handles child and youth sex trafficking. To address this, NYS Assemblymember Pamela Hunter and Senator Liz Krueger created the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act, bringing the Equality Model to New York. This comprehensive bill tackles several glaring problems in the sex trade, calling for the end of prostitution arrests, expands Safe Harbor laws for child sex-trafficking victims, and connects various social services together to better serve people in the sex trade.

The bill also brings justice to traffickers, pimps, and buyers by keeping current accountability laws in place while ending glaring issues in our current law, like loopholes regarding trafficking, like the age-ignorance defense. Finally, the act addresses past wrongs by expunging records of prostitution charges, erasing criminal records of trafficking survivors for crimes committed while they were under the control of their exploiter, and creating income-based fines for buyers, traffickers, and pimps, with some of the funds going directly to a victims compensation fund.

The Equality Model stands as a beacon of hope in the fight against commercial sex exploitation. Unlike full legalization, which continues the cycle of exploitation and violence, the Equality Model recognizes the dignity, well-being, and rights of all individuals trapped in the sex trade. New York's adoption of the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act would be a significant step forward in this movement, demonstrating a commitment to righting wrongs and ending systemic injustice. It's time to stand on the side of justice, to support legislation that empowers overcomers while holding perpetrators accountable.

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