Eight experts explain why they think the sex trade should not be decriminalized
Earlier this year, when a bill calling for full decriminalization of prostitution was introduced in New York, eyes across the nation turned to the Empire State. Supporters think the bill and others like it would create a safer environment for people exploited in the sex trade and empower them to have agency over their bodies. But Alexi Ashe Meyers, an attorney at Sanctuary for Families (SFF) and co-chair of the New York State Anti-trafficking Coalition, insists this is not the case. Ashe Meyers, who has dedicated her career to supporting survivors of gender-based violence, says full decriminalization would more than likely lead to an increase in sex trafficking, which is currently an estimated $150 billion-a-year global industry. “If you remove any impediments to buying sex and normalize it, there’ll be an increase in that act. People from the most impoverished and marginalized communities then get trafficked in to meet that demand,” she explains. “I want people to understand how regressive and antifeminist it would be to decriminalize an industry in which women are bought and sold for the pleasure of men.”
Ashe Meyers and the sex-trade survivors, lawyers, and experts featured here support the Equality Model (also known as the Nordic Model), in which only those who buy sex as well as third-party exploiters are criminally prosecuted. This framework, already in place in several countries such as Sweden, Canada, and France, not only keeps those who are bought and sold in the sex trade out of jail but also provides them with access to medical care, housing, and other social services to help them leave the industry. It also establishes education initiatives to spread public
From left: Shobana Powell, Ane Mathieson, Rebecca Dince Zipkin, Melanie Thompson, Yvonne Chen, Alexi Ashe Meyers, Shandra Woworuntu, and Laura Ramírez in New York. Styling: Laurel Pantin. Hair and makeup: Glamsquad.