My Child Marriage Bill Was Sent To The Governor To Be Signed Into Law

I am proud to announce that A.5524-B/S.4407-B, legislation I authored, was passed by both the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate this week and will now be sent to Governor Cuomo to be signed into law.

The bill would prohibit the marriage of minors under the age of 17 and strengthen the process to obtain court approval for marriage of persons at least 17 years of age but under 18 years of age.

The current minimum age to marry in New York State is 14. If a child is 16 or 17, she can marry with parental consent.  If a child is 14 or 15, she can marry with parental consent and the approval of the court. Current law enables children to be forced into marriage by their parents who bring their children before the court or the court clerk to provide their “consent” when in reality the parents have forced their child to marry, threatening the child with ostracism, beatings or death if the child refuses to marry.

Children who are 14 and 15 years old should be worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends. They are much too young to be married. We are seeing girls getting married to much older men who are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally. This is an appalling practice that destroys the lives of young girls.

How has it been possible that we allow a 14-year-old to get married yet we don’t allow her any practical ways out? She can’t sue for divorce in her own name. Under current law, she has to sue for divorce through a parent, who likely forced her into the marriage in the first place, or through a guardian. We have needed to address this for a long time.

According to Fraidy Reiss, executive director and founder of Unchained At Last, nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010 and more than 84 percent of those children were minor girls married to adult men.  Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages. 

“This bill is an important first step toward ending the human rights abuse of child marriage in New York State,” Reiss said. “I applaud Assemblywoman Paulin for her leadership.”

The current court approval process for the authorization of marriage of persons under 16 hasn’t provided adequate protections for a child against abuse and fraud on the part of parents or guardians to force a child into marriage. This legislation will strengthen the process for marriage of persons at least 17 but under 18 by, among other things, requiring the appointment of an attorney for the child who must have received training in domestic violence including a component on forced marriage, and requiring the court to hold an in camera interview, separately with each minor party, and make specific written findings.   The bill also provides that if the court approves the marriage, each minor party will have all the rights of an adult, including the right to enter into a contract, except for specific constitutional and statutory age requirements.

“New York is poised to lead the nation in recognizing child marriage as a human rights violation,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York. “Governor Cuomo has been very clear that child marriage is a scourge on the values we hold dear in New York. It’s not a surprise that he will be signing into law the strongest protections in the nation. We urge the rest of the country to follow suit.”

“Child marriage is a human rights violation that fosters gender inequality and exploitation and whose victims are three times more likely to suffer domestic violence, are much less likely to complete their education and are not able to bring divorce or annulment in their own names,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families. “Sanctuary for Families has seen the deleterious effect it has had on our clients. We thank Assemblywoman Paulin and Senator Lanza for their leadership and applaud the New York State Legislature’s swift action to halt this unacceptable and outmoded practice. Marriage is rightfully a milestone of adulthood, not childhood.”

Andrew Lanza sponsored the bill in the Senate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Continuing The Fight Against Sex Trafficking In New York

Here is a press release that we sent out today regarding the latest piece of legislation I introduced to help combat sex trafficking in New York State.

AMY PAULIN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO COMBAT SEX TRAFFICKING OF MINORS; BILL GARNERS SUPPORT FROM MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY CYRUS VANCE

         New York Lags Behind 46 States and Federal Government in Criminalizing the Trafficking of Children

ALBANY – Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) is proud to announce that she has introduced legislation (A09453) that would eliminate the requirement to prove force, fraud or coercion in prosecutions for sex trafficking in New York.

Under federal law, a person is guilty of sex trafficking if he or she profits from prostitution using force, fraud or coercion, or when the person induced to perform the act is under 18. Accordingly, a prosecutor would not need to articulate or prove force, fraud or coercion to prosecute a trafficker who exploits a child under 18. The federal government and 46 other states recognize that any child under the age of 18 who engages in commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking and any person who promotes and benefits from exploiting such child is a sex trafficker.

Under New York law, however, the prosecution must prove that a person used force, fraud or coercion to find such person guilty of sex trafficking, even if the victim is a child under 18.

“By removing the requirement to prove force, we will be able to deal more aggressively with sex traffickers in New York,” Paulin said. “A person under the age of 18 is a child and a prosecutor should not have to prove that the child was forced into committing these horrific actions. A child doesn’t have the capacity to consent to engage in a sexual act. Why would we require proof that he or she was forced into the act?”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., whose office has prosecuted several high-profile cases involving forcible sex trafficking, has voiced his strong support for Paulin’s legislation, citing multiple prosecutions that would have benefited from this new legislation. Damon Hayes was recently convicted in Manhattan of running a sex trafficking operation around Super Bowl weekend in January 2014 consisting of two women and a 15-year-old child that Hayes recruited from Florida. Even though the 15-year-old was too young to legally engage in sexual activity with grown men, Manhattan prosecutors had to prove that she was forced to do so by the defendant under the threat of violence to secure the conviction.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance

Vance also cited the prosecution of Froilan Rosado for running a prostitution ring with 10 teenagers, ranging in age from 15-18, and trafficking an 18-year-old woman into that ring. Even though Rosado was prostituting minors, many of whom were so young that they could not legally consent to sexual activity with adults, the DA’s Office could only convict Rosado of trafficking the 18-year-old, because evidence showed that he forced her to engage in sexual acts through physical violence and threats. With this new legislation, by proving Rosado prostituted women under the age of 18-years-old, prosecutors would have also proved that he trafficked them – and would not have needed to additionally prove force, fraud, or coercion.

“Those who profit off of children’s bodies are not merely pimps, but traffickers – period,” Vance said. “Teens and children, particularly those too young to consent to sexual activity cannot consent to being raped just because there is money exchanged. I urge the Senate and Assembly to pass this important, common-sense legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Paulin and Senator [Andrew] Lanza, which reflects the same understanding as our long-standing statutory rape laws: children do not have the legal, emotional, or psychological capacity to consent to sexual activity with adults.

“That does not change when there is an exchange of money. It is far past time that child victims in New York State have the same protections already provided by federal law and 46 states across the country.”

 

 

Help End Human Trafficking

Dear friends and constituents,

People Are Not For Sale.

It sounds like a simple concept, doesn’t it? The buying and selling of people in this country has been outlawed for nearly 150 years yet slavery remains a horrible stain on society. While the slavery of which I am speaking is not as overt or oppressive as what took place during our country’s formative years it is no less disgusting and dehumanizing.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. The exploitation of young men and women, turning them into victims of sexual abuse remains a problem that is often relegated to the shadows and hushed conversations. While topics such as gun control and abortion remain hot-button legislative issues, the struggle to bring those who engage in human trafficking remains a struggle.

I, along with New York State Senator Andrew Lanza, am working to get the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act [TVPJA] passed and signed into law. Far too many young men and women disappear into this void each year while the people holding them captive go largely unpunished and rarely face a sentence befitting their crimes. For the people who are lucky and courageous enough to escape this life of servitude, there aren’t many programs in place that will counsel them and help them return to a normal existence.

This is a very complicated issue, so much so that explaining every last detail here would take far too much time. Rest assured, however, that I have made getting this legislation passed a top priority. We need to start spreading the word and making people more aware of the problem in an effort to get my fellow legislators on board.

There are several events over the next two months at which I will speak that will help with bringing this issue the attention it deserves. The New York State Public Affairs Committee of The Junior League will be holding its spring conference on April 15-16 in Albany. I will address the conference on the 15th and speak on several news shows thereafter about this issue.

notforsale

Copy and paste this twibbon to share with friends.

Copy and paste this twibbon to share with friends.

The Junior Leagues of Westchester County will also be holding an informative discussion on May 24th at Greenburgh Town Hall. I will be part of a special guest panel along with Allison Boak, Co-Founder and President of International Organization for Adolescents, Dorchen Leidholt, Legal Director for Sanctuary for Families and the chair of the NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition, David Ryan, the chief of the Pound Ridge police, Carol Smolenski, the Executive Director of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, and Karen Cheeks-Lomax, the Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place.

This is such an important issue. So please, help us spread the word. You’ll find out People Are Not For Sale twibbon on this page. Copy it and put it on your Facebook page, tweet it out, send it to friends and family and ask them to do the same. Speak loudly and speak often for the victims whose voices cannot be heard.