The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA) has been blocked in the New York State Legislature for the second year in a row by lawmakers to further their political agenda. The TVPJA would strengthen law enforcement’s ability to investigate suspected traffickers, provide protection against criminal prosecution for trafficking victims, and increase the penalties for buying sex with a minor to equal those for statutory rape. The bill unanimously passed the New York Senate. “This bill,” says sponsor Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, “is so rooted in common sense and decency that Democrats and Republicans alike (and in both houses) agree on the bill’s language and objectives.” [1]

Yet the bill, which was proposed last year, failed to pass in 2013. This year’s legislative session ended with the bill still locked in a stalemate. Governor Andrew Cuomo had included the bill as a part of his ten-point proposal entitled the “Women’s Equality Act,” which contained a highly divisive abortion provision opposed by many in the State Senate. Instead of voting on the ten proposals as a group, the Senate voted on each individually, passing nine of them. The Assembly leadership, however, refused to allow separate votes on each of the bills, holding the TVPJA hostage in order to pass the Governor’s act as a whole. Under pressure from the Governor and with the urging of the New York Times [2], the Assembly refused to pass anything but the Women’s Equality Act in its entirety. Despite Assemblywoman Paulin’s objections, the TVPJA never even came to a vote in the Assembly.

The Assembly has kept a common-sense law from being implemented in order to use it as a political weapon. Governor Cuomo has already begun to attack what he describes as a “failure” [3] of the Senate, promising to use his influence to punish those who opposed his agenda. Cuomo and the Assembly leadership have chosen to sacrifice the dignity of the men, women, and children exploited by human trafficking in an attempt to gain power over political opposition. Human trafficking is not a partisan issue, and it is unacceptable for politicians to construct barriers between victims of human trafficking and the laws that would help them.

[1] http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/06/15/amy-paulin-new-york-sex-trafficking-womens-equality-act/10556605/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/opinion/keep-the-womens-rights-bill-intact.html

[3] http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/06/8547663/cuomo-what-senates-failure-will-mean

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