Should Cabbies Be Punished For Knowingly Driving Prostitutes?

We can all agree that sex trafficking of women and girls is abhorrent and should be illegal. Maybe we won’t agree about whether consensual sex work should be legal. (I personally believe it should be.) But where do you stand on punishing cab drivers who knowingly drive around prostitutes?

On Friday morning, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation that pins a $10,000 fine on a cab driver who is convicted the second time for knowingly transporting prostitutes to their work. Simply transporting a prostitute or a decoy prostitute would not be illegal, the mayor said, but knowingly driving around sex workers even after getting caught doing so once before would now constitute participating in a ‘sex trafficking operation.’

The mayor clarified that NYC cab drivers would not have to “decide who is and who isn’t” a prostitute based on what she was wearing, noting that “young people go out clubbing and they wear very risque” outfits. Cabbies, as well as feminist activists, had been skittish about the bill for exactly the same reason. (Personally, I have a hard time believing a male cabbie would drive past a woman wearing a risque outfit under any circumstances, but I suppose anything can happen.)

I am supportive of legislation like this if it helps cut the middleman out of a sex trafficking ring. NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn noted that 4,000 minors are trafficked for sex each year through New York City; someone must be driving them around.

However, I sense this legislation could hurt consensual sex workers who depend on drivers — drivers who outright know, or have a strong hunch about what the women are doing — to take them to and from work. Won’t it force these women to just go more underground, which could have the effect of making them more hidden?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

[New York Times]
[New York Times (2)]
[New York Post]

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