Bringing an end to human trafficking is one of the causes for which I have put in a great deal of time and effort during my tenure as a member of the Assembly. I am very proud to say that Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (A506), which I authored and the Governor signed into law in October, went into effect today.
This is a comprehensive piece of legislation that improves upon the current law by increasing criminal penalties for sex and labor trafficking, compelling and promoting prostitution, patronizing a minor for prostitution and patronizing in a school zone. The TVPJA creates new crimes of aggravated patronizing a minor for prostitution, aligns the penalties for patronizing a minor with those of statutory rape and eliminates the term “prostitute” in the Penal Law. This law gives law enforcement the tools they need to convict the criminals and addresses the financial and emotional needs of the young victims.
Human trafficking is a heinous crime in which pimps take advantage of some of the most vulnerable in our society. It’s a $32 billion industry and of the approximately 27 million people who are trafficked each year, the majority of which are girls and young women.
New York is a leading entry, transit and destination point for trafficking victims with young women being sexually exploited in all regions of the state, urban, suburban and rural. It is about time that we are holding the traffickers and buyers accountable, clamping down on a practice that harms so many people, contributes to the death of many and strips away a person’s basic human dignity.
This was one of seven bills concerning the Women’s Agenda that went into effect today. The other laws covered equal pay for women who do similar work to men; protecting employees against sexual harassment regardless of a company’s size; allowing victims of employment or credit discrimination based on sex to recover attorney’s fees; prohibiting employment discrimination based on an employee’s familial status; the protection of individuals from being discriminated against or evicted from their homes based on their status as victims of domestic violence; and requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees who may need adjustments in their work schedules or job duties due to their pregnancy.
Many of these new laws help break down barriers that can hold women back in their careers or contribute to a hostile work environment. For example, the law now guarantees breastfeeding mothers the right to take reasonable breaks at work to pump breast milk for up to three years after childbirth, and employers are required to make efforts to provide a room where women can have privacy to do so. Additionally, these laws give workers the freedom to discuss their wages, so they can ensure they’re being paid fairly.