On Wednesday, Sept. 25, New York state’s highest-ranking judge announced a first-of-its-kind initiative. In an effort to combat human trafficking and stop criminal courts from punishing victims of trafficking, New York will no longer treat sex workers as criminals. Instead of prison time, a special court will provide victims with social services, such as medical treatment and job training. However, the policy fails to distinguish between sex workers and sex slaves. This is a paternalistic perception that strips women of agency in an attempt to protect them from their own choices. “Saving” sex workers, after arresting and arraigning them, will not accomplish the court’s goals.
Federal law regarding human trafficking specifies that the difference between a worker and a slave is force or fraud, except in the case of sex. The law disregards the possibility that someone would choose to engage in prostitution. In doing so, it not only ignores sex workers, who must risk arrest and prison to earn a living, but fails the victims of force and fraud