Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center issue statement on prohibitionist ‘Nordic Model’ legislation in New York

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Sex Workers Project (SWP) of the Urban Justice Center (UJC)

NSWP member organisation the Sex Workers Project (SWP) of the Urban Justice Center (UJC) provides legal advocacy to survivors of human trafficking and people who engage in sex work. They engage in advocacy, education, and organising to build a movement to protect the human rights of sex workers.

The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center have issued a statement opposing the harmful “sex trade survivors justice and equality act”, a new bill introduced to state senate in January.

Below is an excerpt of the statement and you can read the full text on the SWP website.

As an organization led by current and former sex workers, and providing services to survivors of human trafficking and sex workers every day, we know first-hand that the so-called Nordic, End-Demand, or “Equality” model is simply a modern-era prohibitionist model that seeks to further stigmatize and criminalize our customers and clients and the sex trades in general. This approach directly harms people working in the sex trades under the guise of eradicating human trafficking. No matter what you call it (advocates of the model continue to change its name in order to appeal to liberal decision makers), this framework and the mindset that perpetuates it is prohibitionist, anti-sex, paternalistic, transphobic, and hugely assumptive, rooted in hundreds of years of a white/European, missionary, rescue-mentality and approach to discomfort with sex, trans bodies, BIPOC sexuality, and sexual freedom in general.

The so-called “equality” model certainly creates no “equality” for our customers and clients. Nordic model legislation relies upon a white supremacist, patriarchal criminal punishment system that disproportionately impacts BIPOC men (Black, indigenous and/or people of color), as do all criminal punishment policy solutions. Many exchanges in the sex trades occur intra-community, meaning whether you seek to criminalize workers or our customers, you are still further criminalizing BIPOC communities.

Nordic model policies directly harm workers by targeting our clients and customers, taking away our livelihood. The assumption that everyone in the sex trades can, wants to, or needs to “exit” the sex trades is a paternalistic assumption that is simply untrue and that invisibilizes hundreds of thousands of adults who work in the sex trades by choice and circumstance.

Furthermore, the most effective way to combat human trafficking is to take sex work out of the shadows by fully decriminalizing the sellers, buyers and promoters of all adult consensual work. We already have laws in New York and at the Federal level to combat human trafficking, none of which the New York comprehensive decriminalization bill (Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act (SVSTA)) would alter.

New York has always been viewed as a progressive leader among states when it comes to protecting and promoting human rights. Now is the moment for New York to continue that proud legacy of human rights leadership by:

  • acknowledging that sex work is work that provides valuable and sometimes life-saving services to people who need them;
  • making clear that criminalizing the buying, selling or promoting of adult consensual sex work is criminalizing survival for trans women and migrants;
  • ending the gender and racial profiling of transgender BIPOC women;
  • providing comprehensive criminal record relief (vacatur) for survivors of human trafficking;
  • ending the conflation of human trafficking and sex work

SWP calls for the repeal of the NY Penal Law of loitering for the purposes of prostitution, expansion of vacatur for survivors of human trafficking, rejection of the “equality” or Nordic model that criminalizes our customers, and passing full comprehensive decriminalization of the sex trades through the SVSTA.

We must collectively, as sex workers, survivors of human trafficking and our true allies, hold the proponents of the Nordic, end demand, or “equality” model accountable for the lifelong harms their actions cause.