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Advocates Look to Strengthen NYS Human-Trafficking Laws

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as part of his proposed Women’s Equality Act, wants to enact policy changes that will increase penalties for human trafficking and make it easier for sex trafficking victims—especially minors— to avoid being prosecuted for prostitution. And some groups have ideas about how the state’s trafficking laws could be strengthened.

Some 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide – both sex and labor trafficking. That’s according to the New York State Bar Association of New York, which has created a special committee to address human trafficking. The subject is also on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s radar, as mentioned in his state-of-the-state address.  Sonia Ossorio is the executive director of the New York City region of the National Organization for Women, or NOW-NYC, which is part of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition. She says she is thrilled that Governor Cuomo and his staff view cracking down on human trafficking as a priority, and says trafficking occurs throughout New York.

Hunts Point, by the way, is in the Bronx. She says the issue of human trafficking in the U.S. is fairly new, with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act having been passed in 2000. She says states started passing anti-trafficking laws in 2005. Ossorio says it’s time to recognize sex trafficking as a violent crime in New York, and convict a person of sex trafficking on a Class B violent crime, up from a Class-B felony. She also would like to see New York State address the following:

James Dold agrees, and says such a provision would greatly strengthen New York’s anti-trafficking laws.

Dold is policy counsel for Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that aims to combat human trafficking and strengthen state and federal anti-trafficking legislation.

He notes that Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont all have anti-labor and anti-sex trafficking provisions on the books. Pennsylvania, however, only has anti-labor trafficking provisions, though there is ongoing work to strengthen the laws. And, says Dold, even with strong laws in New York, there is still more to be done.

New York State Democratic Assembly member Amy Paulin, who represents part of Westchester County, and Republican State Senator Andrew Lanza, from Staten Island, are sponsoring the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, part of which includes the following, as described by NOW-NYC’s Sonia Ossorio.

And, in reference to sex-trafficking laws overall in New York State, NOW-NYC’s Ossorio says:

The New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition has launched a statewide effort to raise awareness of human trafficking.

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