The Women's Equality Agenda would strengthen penalties against those who profit from sex trafficking. Photo by AP.
July 30, 2013After the rescue of 105 teens in "Operation Cross Country," a nationwide sweep targeting child sex trafficking, state Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, called on the Assembly to return to Albany to pass the Women's Equality Act.
The ten-point legislation was first introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June with the help of the Women's Equality Coalition, a group of 850 organizations and business to end gender discrimination across the state. One provision of the Women's Equality Act would create an affirmative defense to a prostitution charge that the individual was a trafficking victim; increase penalties across the board for human trafficking and labor trafficking; create new offenses for johns of aggravated patronizing a minor; and create a civil action for victims of trafficking against their perpetrators.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI rescued 105 young people and arrested 150 alleged pimps in a three-day sweep in 76 cities.
The agency said it had been monitoring Backpage.com and other websites as a prominent online marketplace for sex for sale. Backpage.com said that it was "very, very pleased" by the raids and that if the website were shut down to the advertisements, the ads would be pushed to sites that wouldn't cooperate with law enforcement, the AP reports.
The young people in the roundup, almost all of them girls, ranged in age from 13 to 17.
In a statement, Skelos called for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, to call back the Assembly a vote on the nine out of ten bills, one of which includes measures to strengthen laws against human trafficking, calling the Assembly's inaction shameful.
"The New York State Assembly can no longer ignore this critical issue, said Skelos. "It's time for the speaker to bring his members back to Albany and join us in passing a women's equality agenda for New York, and to protect the innocent victims of sex trafficking. No more politics, no more stalling. The New York Democratic Party needs to wake up and help us achieve a positive resolution now."
Originally submitted to the Legislature as an omnibus bill, Skelos and other conservatives in the Legislature saw the controversial abortion section of the Women's Equality Act as an expansion of abortion rights and vowed not to pass it. During the last days of session, the act was broken up into ten individual bills, with the Assembly passing the omnibus legislation and the Senate passing only nine of the ten bills, not acting on the abortion rights part.
The legislation also includes sections that addressed equal pay for women, tougher sexual harassment laws, housing and pregnancy discrimination, and domestic violence.
On July 12, the Women's Equality Coalition also called for the Assembly to return to Albany and vote on all ten bills individually.
"The coalition continues to ask for all ten bills. There is one house, the Senate, who let down the women of New York," said M. Tracey Brooks, New York State president and CEO Family Planning Advocates. "No one is asking for compromise. The legislative agenda would not be completed without all ten points."
The coalition split with NARAL Pro-Choice NY earlier in July.
Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, R-Fishkill, welcomes the chance to come back and pass nine out of the 10 bills.
"I always thought they should have been separate bills, I didn't like the idea of all or nothing," said Lalor. "We should pass what's good for our state and shouldn't pass something that's not good for our state. I support the idea of us coming back."