Category: Sex Crimes

Attacking Prostitution Through Legal Reforms

POST WRITTEN BY: Jessica Mlinar (’16), J.D. Pace Law School

Northern Ireland passed a law on June 1, 2015 making “buying sex” a criminal activity. “If convicted, a person could be fined, sentenced to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment, or both. It remains an offense to keep or manage a brothel, but the new law removes criminality from soliciting in the street or public place.” The efforts stem from the idea that the correct way to minimize prostitution and other activities of that nature is to decrease the demand for them rather than punish the prostitute. Andrea Matolcsi, a spokeswoman for Equality Now, which is an international women’s rights group, wholeheartedly supports these efforts. In her opinion, “the legalization and decriminalization approach is not benefiting anyone.”

By the same token, other countries believe that the best approach is to legalize both the selling and buying of sex, largely due to the fear that passing laws turning purchasing sex into a criminal activity will cause more harm than good. Buying sex is not a novel idea; it has been around for decades and any controversial move may consequently drive the activity underground. Additionally, it is feared that  strict laws outlawing these activities will increase violence against women.One sex worker, Katie McGrew, explains a concern that this new law will lead to “situations where more women are competing for fewer clients [which] has dangerous consequences, including charging less, offering services they wouldn’t have previously, and agreeing to unsafe sex.”

Further, the migration of the newly criminalized activity presents another problem. The Immigrant Council of Ireland stated that there was no doubt that men would “make the short journey over the border in order to escape the law.” Some believe that this movement has already begun and is evidenced by the increase in advertisements in the over-the-border areas.

Nonetheless, other countries such as France and Irish Republic are considering enacting similar legislation that criminalizes the conduct of a client, while protecting women who are in the business of providing sex. “ The Nordic Model” (social and economic model of the Nordic countries which makes purchasing sex a criminal activity) has been adopted in Canadaand Sweden, as well as Norway. Only time will tell which one of the two mainstream routes proves to be more successful.

In my view, this worldwide issue does not have a single solution. It is clear that authorities themselves struggle to figure out which approach works the best. This is because no one model has proven to be one hundred percent effective. Nonetheless, I believe that adopting the Nordic model is the right way to go. Passing a law criminalizing this undesirable activity shows just how important it is for Northern Ireland to manage and limit prostitution, or rather criminalize purchasing sexual services. Decriminalization can often be perceived as giving up, rather than as a way of taking control and fighting harder.

Related Readings:

Human Trafficking – Articles of Interest – Learn More

BY: PCJC

Pace Criminal Justice Center hosted a program on Monday, January 28, 2013 that addressed the legal framework for human trafficking and social services and other needs of victims, as well as a horrific evaluation of the scope of the problem, internationally, nationally and locally. For more information on the subject, see the articles below.

Related Readings:
Compiled by Anthony DiPietro


Vacating Prostitution Convictions

People v. Gonzalez, Docket No.:93N022568 (NY County 2011) (vacating the defendant’s  prostitution convictions as a result of  the 2010 amendments to CPL 440.10 which allow for the vacating prostitution convictions where the defendant can show she was the victim of sex trafficking).

Kevin Deutsch, Woman Forced Into Sex Trade Has Prostitution Convictions Thrown Out Under New Sex-Trafficking Law, NY Daily News (Sept. 22, 2011).

Sex Workers ProjectVacating Criminal Convictions for Trafficked Persons.


News Articles on Human Trafficking

Louis P. Masur, How Many Slaves Work for You?, NY Times (Dec. 31, 2012).

Marjorie Elizabeth Wood, Christmas Ornaments, Child LaborNY Times (Dec. 24, 2012).

Mark McDonald, Buy, Sell, Adopt: Child Trafficking in ChinaNY Times (Dec. 26, 2012).

Don GoldenThe Fight Against Human Trafficking in the United States, Huffington Post Blog (Oct. 29, 2012).

Nicholas D. Kristof, Where Pimps Peddle Their GoodsNY Times (March 17, 2012).

Fran Berkman, Hofstra Study Shows Thousands of Human Trafficking Victims in N.Y., Long Island Report (Nov. 15, 2011).

Gidon Belmaker, New York City: Point of Entry for Human Trafficking in US, Epoch Times (March 23, 2011).

William Finnegan, The Counter-TraffickersThe New Yorker (May 5, 2008).

Nicholas D. Kristof, The 21st-Century Slave TradeNY Times (Apr. 22, 2007).

Julia C. Mead, A Slow War on Human TraffickingNY Times (May 28, 2006).

NY Office of Mental Health, New York State Response to Labor and Sex Trafficking: Human Trafficking: A Violation of Human Rights.

New York State’s Response to Labor & Human Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Response to Labor and Sex Trafficking Brochure .


Law Review Articles

Marisa Nack, The Next Step: The Future of New York State’s Human Trafficking Law, 18 J.L. & Pol’y 817 (2010). [available via HeinOnline]

Eileen Overbaugh, Human Trafficking: The Need for Federal Prosecution of Accused Traffickers, 39 Seton Hall L. Rev. 635 (2009). [available via HeinOnline]

Luz Estella Nagle, Selling Souls: The Effect of Globalization on Human Trafficking and Forced Servitude, 26 Wis. Int’l L.J. 131 (2008).

Jayashri Srikantiah, Perfect Victims and Real Survivors: The Iconic Victim in Domestic Human Trafficking Law, 87 B.U. L. Rev. 157 (2007). [available via HeinOnline]

Kathleen Kim, Psychological Coercion in the Context of Modern-Day Involuntary Labor: Revisiting United States v. Kozminski and Understanding Human Trafficking, 38 U. Tol. L. Rev. 941 (2007).  

Kevin Bales, et. al., Hidden Slaves Forced Labor in the United States, 23 Berkeley J. Int’l L. 47 (2005).

Prosecutors Target Human Trafficking

Prosecutors are prioritizing efforts to end human trafficking. On Thursday, January 24, 2013 prosecutors charged 12 people with running a sex trafficking and prostitution ring across four Southern States, taking advantage of female immigrants. Read more here.

And this Wednesday, a federal indictment was unsealed alleging that against Linda Weston, her daughter and three others, targeted victims with mental disabilities and hid them while stealing their social security payments. To read more follow this link.

Of course Nick Kristof writes beautifully about trafficking in the book he wrote with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, “Half the sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”

Pace Law School’s Criminal Justice Center is co-sponsoring, with the Westchester Women’s Bar Association,  a program on local efforts  to combat Human Trafficking on January 28, 2013.