The 'reasonable person' represents someone who is both common and good.
One bill hopes to repeal the crime of selling sex and expand social services; the other would legalize the entire sex trade.
The Equality Model asks, criminal or victim?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcwMzY3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTUxNjE3M30.g5Ln46h9dqAFsymzKPhZ22-euuhjzAqLcreFKC2oOn0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C896%2C0%2C-1&height=700" id="06827" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="454bd6e1b83ba20f97ee3e90258053c3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Advocates stand outside a courthouse to protest Ghislaine Maxwell, former girlfriend to Jeffrey Epstein, for her role in his sex-trafficking ring.
Credit: Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images<p>The most recent of the two is the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act. Set to be introduced by Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan, the law would repeal the crime of prostitution in the state but would maintain punitive measures against buyers and pimps. The penalty for buying sex, for example, would be a sliding-scale fine based on income.<strong> </strong>The bill also aims to strengthen laws against trafficking and eliminate the so-called <a href="http://ypdcrime.com/penal.law/article230.htm#p230.03" target="_blank">ignorance defense</a>, which affords buyers legal cover if they did not have "reasonable grounds" to assume their victim was underage.</p><p>The Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act is based on <a href="https://www.equalitymodelus.org/why-the-equality-model/" target="_blank">the Equality Model</a>, first introduced in Sweden in 1999. Under the Swedish Sex Purchase Act, the country decriminalized prostitution and began targeting buyers and suppliers with the goal of lowering demand. As demand decreased, the thinking went, Sweden would witness a subsequent reduction in violence, trafficking, and the trauma associated so strongly with the illicit sex trade. And <a href="https://www.government.se/4a4908/contentassets/8f0c2ccaa84e455f8bd2b7e9c557ff3e/english-summary-of-sou-2010-49.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 2008 report</a> did find that the strategy manifested some of those goals. </p><p>After the law's introduction, costs increased, fewer men sought to purchase sex, and the number of women in street prostitution halved—though the burgeoning internet scene likely influenced that metric as much as the law. </p><p>As for Sweden's prostituted population, the report was mixed. Fears of the law driving prostitution further underground weren't realized, nor did the risks of physical abuse or dangerous living conditions increase. However, while people who sought to leave the life favored the law, those who wished to stay in the trade denigrated it for hyping the social stigma. </p><p>After the report's release, countries such as Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Israel adopted the Equality Model, and today, many U.S. advocacy groups champion for states to institute similar laws.</p><p>"We who have been in the human-trafficking policy movement for a long time have been advocating for years that people in prostitution should not be criminalized for their exploitation," Alexi Meyers, director of anti-trafficking policy at <a href="https://sanctuaryforfamilies.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sanctuary for Families</a>, told Big Think in an interview discussing the New York bill. "It's the only law where the victim is arrested. Instead of handcuffs, [people in prostitution] need services, need housing, need support."</p><p>Critically, the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act does more than decriminalize prostitution. It also bolsters social services such as housing, job training, and mental health care. To help finance these services, money collected by the aforementioned buyer fine will go into a victim-compensation fund. The bill also expands protections for minors arrested under safe harbor and would vacate victims' prior convictions so they could more easily find jobs. </p><p>"When someone has had no family support, have been abused their entire lives, and they haven't gotten the services they need, at the age of 18, they haven't magically transformed from a victim of trafficking into a consenting adult," Jayne Bigelsen, vice president of advocacy for Covenant House, New York, said in our interview.</p><p>Bigelsen grants that not everyone engaged in the commercial sex trade may view themselves as a victim, but she notes that a large portion of the population remains vulnerable nonetheless. To treat such people as criminals, as so many contemporary laws do, does no one any favors. The fear of arrest <a href="http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/pdf/Prostitutionin9Countries.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">actively discourages</a> victims from seeking an "off-ramp" to the life and strengthens the coercive hold their pimps and traffickers maintain on them.</p><p>"[The law helps] reframe the understanding that this is not a crime. It is a form of gender-based violence and exploitation. I think, over time, people will have a greater understanding of that," Bigelsen adds.</p>
Prostitution, an occupation like any other?<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcwMzY1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTc3NjkzNX0.M_8OftwQ5yaGs4YyUPLIRNUAU7Ip-np2cNNdtEl8gLE/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C565%2C0%2C5&height=700" id="0b146" width="1245" height="700" data-rm-shortcode-id="958d700b5d663082c23f008041a153a9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Sex workers in Amsterdam's famous red-light district, where window prostitution is permitted.
Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images<p>But critics of the Equality Model believe it's disguised paternalism that robs women of the right to choose. Worse, they argue, it further stigmatizes sex workers within society and drives the sex trade further underground, where exploitation and violence can continue to fester from prying eyes.</p><p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6419#:~:text=S6419%20(ACTIVE)%20%2D%20Sponsor%20Memo&text=Part%20B%20repeals%20and%20amends,are%20repealed%20under%20this%20bill." target="_blank">A second New York Senate bill</a>, currently in committee, would decriminalize the entire sex trade within the state. Called the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, the bill would keep penal laws related to minors and sex trafficking but would make sex work between consenting adults a legal, regulated trade.</p><p>"Sex work is work and should not be criminalized by the state," Senator Julia Salazar, who introduced the bill, stated in <a href="https://www.decrimny.org/post/for-immediate-release-decrim-ny-legislators-intro-first-statewide-bill-to-decriminalize-sex-work" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a press release</a>. "Our current policies only empower traffickers and others who benefit from keeping sex work in the shadows. New York State needs to listen to sex workers and make these common-sense reforms to keep sex workers safe and empower sex workers in their workplaces."</p><p>Like the Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act, Salazar's bill draws inspiration from European laws, namely those from the Netherlands and Germany. Both countries legalized the sex trade a few years after Sweden introduced its Equality Model—though laws and regulations vary between the countries and even districts within them. For example, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-introduces-unpopular-prostitution-law/a-39511761" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Germany has passed a law</a> that requires any business offering sex services to apply for a permit "that will only be granted if health, hygiene and room requirements are met," while <a href="https://www.amsterdam.nl/en/policy/policy-health-care/policy-prostitution/#:~:text=In%20Amsterdam%2C%20prostitution%20in%20private,supplying%20locations%20for%20illegal%20prostitution." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Amsterdam limits</a> window prostitution to specific city zones.</p><p>Full-decriminalization advocates hope such laws will facilitate freedom of choice, access to social services, improved health and working conditions, and the decoupling of the occupation from criminal enterprises. They also argue that full decriminalization closes the unintended consequences created by the Equality Model.</p><p>An <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/amnesty-international-publishes-policy-and-research-on-protection-of-sex-workers-rights/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Amnesty International</a> report notes that in Norway, sex workers are routinely evicted from their homes because landlords fear rental agreements will expose them to prosecution for promoting sex. Similar liability concerns deter third parties, such as security, from working with sex workers, too. As a result, sex workers themselves may not be prosecuted but their lives are no less secure nor more firmly established within society.</p><p>"What we have isn't working. The current model of criminalizing sex work traps sex workers and trafficking survivors in cycles of violence. The new proposed legislation referred to as the 'Equality Model' conflates sex work with sex trafficking, using the logic of broken windows policing to address trafficking by targeting sex workers," <a href="https://www.decrimny.org/post/the-equality-model-is-criminalization-by-another-name-pass-the-stop-violence-in-the-sex-trades-act" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">writes the advocacy group Decrim NY</a>.</p>
New York State to lead decriminalization<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8ac67c2bb56050a6a3b91a9c54c4510e"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jMji-YE1qVA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Of course, Equality Model advocates have their arguments against full decriminalization. Even in countries that have legalized prostitution, the sex trade retains <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46919294" target="_blank">strong ties to criminal activities</a>. Prostituted women continue to be viewed as pariah—or, in the case of Amsterdam, tourist attractions. And like the legal sex trades of the ancient world, contemporary examples have witnessed a surge in human trafficking to meet the demand. More often than not, poor women from poor countries.</p><p>"If you decriminalize people who buy sex, you're removing any legal barriers or social barriers, and the number of people who buy sex will exponentially increase, and you'll have to fill that new, legal demand with supply. And that supply is human bodies, and there aren't enough willing participants to fulfill that need. That's when trafficking occurs," Alexi Myers said.</p><p><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/sites/antitrafficking/files/federal_government_report_of_the_impact_of_the_act_regulating_the_legal_situation_of_prostitutes_2007_en_1.pdf" target="_blank">A report commissioned</a> by Germany's Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth looked into the effects of the country's 2001 law. It found the intended impacts to be lacking. According to the report, the Prostitution Act did not create measurable improvements on social protection, working conditions, reduced crime, or the means for leaving the business. The report did assuage some fears, however, by finding that legalization did not make it more difficult to prosecute sex traffickers or related violence when they occurred.</p><p>All told, data will never point to a perfect solution to this or any social concern. In the case of prostitution, emotions and moral instinct run at the redline. Often, the solution one proposes comes down to one's answer of this question: What is prostitution? Is it a violation of another human's rights and dignity? An occupation like any other? Or a moral offense old as the law itself? </p><p>Whatever your answer, you'll likely find current U.S. law lacking. It's for this reason that <a href="https://www.governing.com/archive/more-states-separate-prostitution-sex-trafficking.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">many states are reanalyzing and revamping their prostitution laws</a> to protect victims, usually with more robust safe harbor laws. Whichever law New York State chooses, its successes and failures will likely serve as a bellwether for the United States moving forward.</p>
7 scholars and legal experts dissect what you can and can't say in America.
- The free speech debate typically happens at either end of a spectrum — people believe they should be able to say whatever they want, or they believe that certain things (e.g. hate speech) should be censored. Who is right, and who gets to decide?
- While they acknowledge that speech is a powerful weapon that can cause infinite good and infinite harm, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen, sociologist Nicholas Christakis, author and skeptic Michael Shermer, and others agree that the principle should be defended for everyone, not just for those who share our views. "I'm not defending the Nazis," says Strossen, "I'm defending a principle that is especially important for those of us who want to have the freedom to raise our voices, to protest the Nazis and everything they stand for."
- However, as Strossen and attorney Floyd Abrams point out, there have always been boundaries when it comes to free speech and the First Amendment. There are rules, established by the Supreme Court, meant to ensure that speech is not used to inflict "imminent, specific harm" on others.
It's "the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date," said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
- Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
- The state also legalized the therapeutic use and sale of psilocybin mushrooms.
- As the laws go into effect, other U.S. states will be watching to see how the experiment plays out, influencing future votes across the country.
Arrest and incarceration rates<p>Reduced arrest and incarceration rates for drug possession are likely to be the most obvious changes. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission <a href="https://www.opb.org/pdf/IP44%20-%20REI%20Statement%20Supplement_1602708982790.pdf" target="_blank">estimates</a> that the new laws will reduce convictions for drug possession by about 90 percent, from 4,057 convictions in 2019, to a projected 378 in 2021.<br></p><p>The commission's report also estimates that drug convictions among Black and Indigenous Oregonians may drop by 94 percent, and that racial disparities in drug arrests could drop by the same amount.</p><p>If more Oregonians stay out of the criminal justice system, it could help more people find employment, housing, addiction services and student loans, all of which can be harder to access with a drug conviction on your record. </p><p>It's also conceivable that the new initiative will reduce contentious interactions between Oregonians and law enforcement, which, potentially, could lead to lower arrest rates for other infractions, and create fewer opportunities for police interactions to turn violent.</p><p>Alternatively, if the initiative frees up time and resources for Oregon law enforcement, the state could see arrests rise for other types of crimes. That may include arresting more dealers and traffickers, considering the new laws only apply to users carrying small amounts. If police focus on the suppliers, it will likely change the dynamics of Oregon's illegal drug trade.</p>
Drug use rates<p>How will removing the threat of jail and steep fines change drug use and overdose rates? It's hard to say for sure, but Portugal's 2001 decision to decriminalize drugs provides some clues. In the years following decriminalization, the nation's drug overdose deaths and <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/portugal-drug-decriminalization/" target="_blank">HIV infection rates dropped significantly</a>, while <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1464837" target="_blank">drug usage either stayed constant or decreased</a>.<br></p><p>That drug use remained constant or decreased may be because Portugal only decriminalized drugs, meaning drugs weren't legally available for purchase at something like a marijuana dispensary. But it's also worth noting that Portugal invested money in addiction treatment services, as Oregon <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Oregon_Measure_110,_Drug_Decriminalization_and_Addiction_Treatment_Initiative_(2020)#How_is_the_drug_addiction_treatment_and_recovery_program_funded.3F" target="_blank">plans to do with tax revenues from marijuana sales and savings on correctional services</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Most accounts of the Portugal experiment have focused on decriminalization, but decriminalization was part of a broader effort intended to encourage treatment," <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/law-and-social-inquiry/article/uses-and-abuses-of-drug-decriminalization-in-portugal/1F68DA5A8F0369F3FBA6B2B04E454BBE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hannah Laqueur</a>, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of California, Davis, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/upshot/portugal-drug-legalization-treatment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told</a> <em>The New York Times</em>.</p><p>Oregon will be a particularly interesting case study for decriminalization's effects on drug usage, considering the state ranks among the worst for <a href="https://www.wweek.com/news/state/2019/10/02/nobody-can-beat-oregon-for-drug-use-and-abuse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rates of addiction, use, and overdose</a>.</p>
Treatment rates<p>Although Oregon plans to expand investments in treatment programs for drug users, some are worried the new initiative will discourage people from seeking help.<br></p><p>John Kitzhaber, a former E.R. physician in Oregon, called for Oregonions to reject the measure, writing on his <a href="https://blog.johnkitzhaber.com/vote-no-on-measure-110/" target="_blank">blog</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Measure 110 would eliminate this invaluable tool by reducing the possession of highly addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone to a "violation," which means the court will no longer have the ability to offer people the choice to pursue treatment. It also means that a teenager caught in possession of heroin or meth will only receive a ticket, which in many counties means that parents won't be informed of their child's drug use."</p><p>Still, even if Oregon's measure reduces the number of people who get treatment, that wouldn't necessarily be an indictment of decriminalization writ large, but rather the specific way the state is allocating funds. Kitzhaber concluded his post with a sentiment shared by both drug reform advocates and some of the measure's opponents: "Incarcerating people who suffer from addiction should not be tolerated."</p>
Monopolies wield an immense amount of economic and political power and influence. So what can we do to make the economy more equitable?
- According to Vanderbilt law professor and author Ganesh Sitaraman, America has a monopoly problem—a problem that is almost universally acknowledged as such, yet little is done about it.
- Sitaraman explains how monopolies of today share DNA with trusts of the 19th century, and how the increased concentration and consolidation of these corporations translates to increased power both economically and politically.
- "We need to think about reinvigorating our anti-trust laws and the principles of anti-monopoly that gave spirit to those laws and to lots of other regulations," he argues. Restoring faith in government and the economy starts with dismantling the things that make people question its allegiances and priorities.