As Washington attacks women's rights, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced actions to advance equality in New York. Joined by leading advocates for women and children's rights, the Governor signed legislation to protect against sex trafficking and to help crack down on abusers. Governor Cuomo also highlighted New York's record of progress and continued his call on the New York State Senate to reconvene and pass legislation critical to enshrining women's rights: the Reproductive Health Act, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act and the Equal Rights Amendment.
"The Trump Administration is waging a war on women and fighting to turn back the clock on our progress, but New York can and must continue to lead and fight back to protect equality and rights of women," Governor Cuomo said. "We are taking this action to help protect children from the horrors of sex trafficking and we demand the Senate return to Albany and do their jobs - pass legislation to protect equal rights in New York and ensure we remain a beacon of progress for the nation."
Protecting Children from Sex Trafficking
While federal law recognizes no child willingly becomes a prostitute, New York law previously required prosecutors to prove that force, fraud or coercion was used to make a child participate in prostitution. Frequently, meeting this standard requires victims to testify against their trafficker which can lead to additional trauma for an already-traumatized victim. The legislation signed by the Governor today removes this requirement and gives prosecutors the ability to seek proper justice for these victims without the need to put them through the trauma of appearing in court.
By eliminating the requirement to prove the elements of force, fraud or coercion in cases of children under 18, the legislation the Governor signed today (A.6823-C) will help prosecutors hold those who should be held accountable and help young victims escape their lives of abuse and exploitation at the hands of their predatory traffickers.
Governor Cuomo also signed a bill (S7836) advanced by Senator Lanza and Assembly Member Paulin to move cases to specialized human trafficking courts to connect victims to crucial services, including counseling, job training, education, housing, medical assistance, immigration services and substance abuse and mental health treatment, and an additional bill (A10425-A) advanced by those sponsors to require hotels to prominently display information on services available to victims.
"As a mother and aunt of vulnerable teenagers and as the only state elected female, I'm proud to stand with the Governor to protect women of this state, particularly from the insidious crime of sex trafficking," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The legislation signed by the Governor today continues our important efforts to protect children from human trafficking, provide them with the services they need, and make sure individuals are held accountable for these horrific actions. At the same time, the Trump administration continues to threaten women's rights across the country. The Governor and I are calling on the State Senate to pass legislation that would help to protect women's access to reproductive health care, ensure their safety, and enshrine women's equality into law once and for all."
Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, "With this legislation, we are sending a message loud and clear: human trafficking has no place in the State of New York. This law will hold those that enslave and exploit children through the commercial sex trade accountable while protecting victims who are teenagers or even younger. I thank Governor Cuomo for fighting for this legislation and for everything he is doing to protect the rights of women in this state."
National Organization for Women of New York President Sonia Ossorio said, "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we have made extraordinary progress protecting and expanding women's rights in this state. This bill signing marks another important step in our shared fight for a brighter future for all women in the State of New York. I thank Governor Cuomo for his long legacy of leadership and advocacy to protect women's rights."
CEO and Founder of Not On My Watch Rev. Que English said, "As the President and CEO of Not On My Watch Inc and the Convener, of TrafficK-Free NYC, it has been my honor to work alongside survivors, lawmakers and Governor Cuomo to address injustices in our laws and protect women and girls in our state. Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation to build a fairer, safer and more just future for our children."
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, "We know that victims of sex trafficking are often traumatized and afraid to testify against their abusers. This law relieves young victims of the burden of testifying in open court to prove force, fraud or coercion, which will allow us to hold more offenders accountable. My Office was proud to work on this bill and I commend Assembly Member Paulin, Senator Lanza and Speaker Heastie for their leadership on this important legislation. Thanks to Governor Cuomo for signing this much-needed law that will help bring justice to sex trafficking victims."
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, "I have been a supporter of this bill from the beginning because it helps ensure that those who ensnare children in the sex trade will face prosecution under New York State law. We will no longer have to prove that force or coercion was used under the legislation Governor Cuomo signed today, enabling us to spare traumatized victims from testifying in court against their trafficker. It will help in our effort to eliminate the degradation and enslavement of children. I thank the Governor and the legislators for making this happen."
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. said, "Finally, New York State's penal laws now reflect the reality that a child sold for sex is a victim of sex trafficking, plain and simple. Today, New York codified what's simply commonsense: if a child is too young to consent to sex, she is too young to consent to prostitution. With this legislation, we will hold more predators accountable for profiting from the exploitation of the most vulnerable among us, and reduce the trauma associated with testifying about the violent and coercive acts they endured. I commend Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law, and I am deeply grateful to Assembly Member Paulin, Senator Lanza, Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Flanagan, and all of the advocates who have fought so hard on behalf of sex trafficking survivors. This law will have a significant and immediate impact on my Office's prosecutions, and on prosecutions across the state for years to come."
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, "The commercial sexual exploitation of children in our society is a horrific form of brutality and degradation that traumatizes its victims for life. I want to commend Governor Cuomo for this bold step to strengthen the laws that will help protect young victims. This amendment to the New York State's Sex Trafficking statute will serve as a great tool for prosecutors to hold traffickers accountable to the fullest extent of our laws. My office will continue to aggressively prosecute all those who engage in the sex trafficking of underage children and offer services to all victims of human trafficking."
Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said, "Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this vital legislation to combat human trafficking. We must do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable among us against trafficking and to hold those who profit off of the exploitation of others fully accountable."
Christine Sadowski from the YWCA NYS and Member of Council on Women and Girls said, "Sex trafficking is a horrific crime and we must do everything we can to protect children from that trauma. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation and for all his work for New York women and children."
Jayne Bigelsen, VP Advocacy/ Anti-Trafficking Initiatives, said, “Covenant House New York heartily applauds Governor Cuomo for signing the End Child Sex Trafficking Act. In our work serving New York city's homeless and trafficked youth, we know that pimps and other traffickers specifically target the most vulnerable among us, including homeless youth. Prior to today, survivors of child sex trafficking had to prove that their prostitution or other commercial sex trafficking experiences were by force, fraud, or coercion and thereby nonconsensual. We have found far too many cases where our young people were trafficked as children, but later were too afraid to testify against their pimp/exploiters in court, which was needed to prove force. This meant that child sex traffickers walked free and remained able to exploit over and over again. This law will make clear that children cannot consent to sell their bodies. We are most grateful that because of this new law, it will now be much easier to prosecute traffickers who prey on New York's children.”New York has a long and proud legacy of leading the way to advance women's rights. From the birth of the women's rights movement at Seneca Falls to the recent passage of the most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in the nation, New York continues to champion women's rights and break down barriers to equality. Governor Cuomo knows that when women succeed, New York succeeds, and he has made historic achievements to advance women's equality over the course of his administration.
Most notably, since taking office the Governor has launched Enough is Enough to combat sexual assault on college campuses; passed the Women's Equality Agenda; set the highest minority-and-women-owned-enterprise contracting goal in the nation at 30 percent; signed executive orders to ensure pay equity by state employers and contractors; improved access to breast cancer screening; ended child marriage; and ensured New Yorkers that contraceptives will remain accessible regardless of what this federal administration does to the Affordable Care Act.
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment
New York has a proud history of leading on women's rights: when the federal Equal Rights Amendment was approved by Congress in 1972, New York was one of the first states to vote to ratify it. However, almost five decades later, the federal Equal Rights Amendment still has not be ratified, and even worse, New York's own state constitution does not guarantee equal rights on the basis of sex.
In the face of renewed federal attacks on women's equality, Governor Cuomo will continue to push the Senate to vote to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class in the New York state constitution.
Pass the Reproductive Health Act
For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed the Senate to codify the principle of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into State law to secure women's access to reproductive health options. The Governor is again calling for the passage of legislation to ensure the right of women to make personal health care decisions to protect their health and life and to ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty.
Pass the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act
Expanding on 2017's regulations protecting women's access to contraception regardless of federal attack, the Department of Financial Services and Department of Health issued regulations requiring insurers to cover over the counter emergency contraception and all other contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration as well as allowing for the dispensing of 12 months of contraceptive at one time, all without co-insurance, co-pays or deductibles. The Governor continues to push the Senate to pass legislation to codify access to contraception, including emergency contraception into New York State law by passing the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
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