The Episcopal Church is not the only one working on justice issues. This comes from the Church Club of New York discussing “Fighting Human Trafficking - Will Decriminalizing the Sex Trade Help or Hurt?”
On Tuesday, July 23, at 7:00pm, you are invited to be part of a conversation with New York State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, who has recently proposed a bill that would decriminalize almost all aspects of the adult sex trade. The Assembly Member will offer his reasons behind the bill and speak to its effects on New Yorkers. There is controversy over the bill and representatives from anti-trafficking organizations will join the conversation to express their views on why they believe the bill, as proposed, is problematic.
Tuesday, July 23, 7:00pm
Church of the Incarnation (in the Sanctuary), 209 Madison Avenue at 35th Street
The event is open to the public. Please spread the word and share the link to register:
Below is an article written by The Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, Associate Rector of Church of the Incarnation and leader of the Diocesan Task Force Against Human Trafficking. The article was written for the upcoming issue of the Episcopal New Yorker, and expresses some of the concerns about the bill as currently proposed.
Decriminalizing Pimps and Johns - What's at Stake?
The worst kind of power is oppression disguised as liberation. This is the power dynamic that undergirds the sex workers' rights movement. Currently, New York is seeing a push to decriminalize nearly all aspects of the sex trade. New York State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and Senator Julia Salazar recently introduced bill A.8230/S.6419 , which would accomplish just that. On a positive note, the bill would have the effect of decriminalizing those who are bought and sold in prostitution. Prostituted people would no longer be arrested, prosecuted or criminalized. However, the bill's other provisions are much more controversial - they would allow pimping, brothel-owning and sex buying to become legal activities in New York State, provided the persons being sold for sex are over 17 years of age.
Sex workers' rights organizations claim that consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want with their own bodies - "my body, my choice." But in most cases, prostitution is more aptly described as "my body, his choice." It's not sexual liberation but sexual exploitation. According to Sanctuary for Families, New York's leading service provider and advocate for survivors of gender violence, 90% of people in prostitution in the U.S. are trafficking victims. This means that only 10% of prostituted people have any real choice in what happens to their bodies in the sex trade.
Real choice means making an informed decision not based on an addiction to drugs, interpersonal violence, or coercion from a trafficker. It means someone must have the mental capacity to make such a decision and not be suffering from harms routinely associated with prostitution, including PTSD, dissociation, suicidal ideation, and violence endured at the hands of pimps and johns. Finally, true choice means there are real alternatives in an individual's life. A prostituted person is almost always poorer and more vulnerable than the sex buyer. The sex industry is predicated on racial, gender and income inequality. Inequality is the fuel that keeps the sex trade going, which means true progressivism means fighting to end a system that reinforces such inequality. At a time when we are culturally taking a stand against violence and harassment towards women and marginalized groups, creating spaces of inclusion and opportunity, why would we take a step backward by allowing these very groups to be further exposed to the harms of prostitution?
Advocates fighting for full decriminalization argue that the problem of human trafficking and violence in the sex trade will be helped by bringing it out of the shadows. However, when prostitution is fully decriminalized - as it has been in Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands - the demand for commercial sex rises and the sex industry expands, creating a surge in human trafficking to fill the supply, along with a secondary illegal market for underage bodies. Perhaps Gottfried and Salazar should heed these words of the prophet Isaiah: " Woe to you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness." (Isaiah 5:20) Woe to anyone who would sanction the world's oldest oppression.