New York Women's Bar Association, 132 East 43rd Street, #716, The Chrysler Building, New York, NY, 10017-4019
Message from the President


Re-Evaluating A "Victimless" Crime

In the wake of recent scandals, many have questioned conventional notions about prostitution. Is it, as some say, a victimless crime? If so, why is it a crime? If not, who is victimized?

Some argue that subjective moral judgments should not be imposed on consenting adults to criminalize behavior that would be legal if no money were exchanged. This characterization of prostitution, however, rests on a shaky assumption that prostitutes and their customers are willing, and equal, participants in the purchase and sale of services. That is clearly not the case.

Empirical evidence shows that most prostitutes do not freely choose their profession. Young girls do not aspire to become sex workers when they grow up. Women do not choose prostitution over careers in law, medicine, fashion or the arts because it is more enjoyable, lucrative or glamorous.

There may be women who freely choose to be sex workers. And there may be some who are highly paid, enjoy their work, and have freely entered and can leave "the life" at any time. But that is hardly true for most prostitutes.

The facts are frightening. Each year, thousands of women - and indeed even children -- around the world are sold or tricked into sexual slavery. Here in New York City, countless women who work in the sex trade are virtually helpless to escape their exploitation.

Even those women who are not literally "slaves" are often victims of abuse, poverty, and drug addiction. Their lives are filled with violence, or at least the threat of violence, as the vast majority of prostitutes are under the control of pimps. They may be desperate to escape their exploitation, but too emotionally damaged or bereft of resources to do so.

These women and children must be protected from the predatory practices of pimps, human traffickers, and dangerous customers.

Everyone can agree that laws should protect child prostitutes, victims of human trafficking, and any and all women and men -- coerced into selling their bodies. How the laws should do so is not so clear and requires further exploration.

Some have suggested that prostitution should simply be decriminalized and regulated, like in parts of Nevada. But in his March 13, 2008 New York Times Op Ed column, Nicholas D. Kristof has noted that when the Netherlands legalized prostitution in 2000, much of the sex industry went underground. While there were modest public health gains, trafficking and child prostitution flourished instead of dying out as predicted. Sweden, on the other hand, decriminalized the sale of sex, but made it a crime to buy sex. Kristof reported that this model worked better in reducing trafficking and the sale of underage females.

Currently, most prostitution laws are unevenly enforced and seem to be of little value to society or the women and children who are already victimized by the sex trade. While "Johns" may suffer public shame, they are rarely prosecuted and punished. Certainly, the laws do not serve as a deterrent to pimps and human traffickers.

As females and lawyers, it is incumbent upon us to promote social policy to aid the protection of all women and children in society, especially those who are being victimized. Neither laws nor policy will change unless we speak out. I call upon our membership to do just that: stand up on behalf of the victims of "victimless" crimes.

Lisa A. Sokoloff

Archives

March 2008

In her President's Message, Lisa A. Sokoloff spoke about celebrating the women in our lives. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2008

In her President's Message, Lisa A. Sokoloff spoke about continuing the struggle against gender bias. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2007

In her President's Message, Lisa A. Sokoloff spoke about making 2008 the best year ever for the NYWBA. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

November 2007

In her President's Message, Lisa A. Sokoloff spoke about the summary of results from our first annual survey on the status of women working in Manhattan law firms. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

September 2007

In her President's Message, Lisa A. Sokoloff spoke about GENERATIVITY. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

June 2007

In her President's Message, Lisa A. Sokoloff spoke about how "Our Work is Not Done". To view the President's Message in full, click here.

May 2007

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reviewed this year's events. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

April 2007

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of rainmaking. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

March 2007

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on gender diversity in large law firms. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2007

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on lessons in humility. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2007

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on the benefits of dual membership in the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of pro bono service. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

November 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on military wives as unsung military heroes.To view the President's Message in full, click here.

October 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of making our worlds larger again. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

September 2006

In her President's Message, Teresa Schiller Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of building a network of women lawyers. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

July 2006

In her inaugural President's Message, Teresa Schiller reflected on the importance of community. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

Spring 2006

In her President's column in the Spring issue, President Christina Kallas discussed how women continue to lag behind men when it comes to earning power, and suggests that this is one more item for the legislature to address as it considers 'no-fault' divorce legislation. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

March 2006

For Women's History Month, Christina Kallas reflected upon how far we have yet to go. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2006

In her column for February President Christina Kallas asked us to consider what it is we pay attention to in our culture. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2006

In her column for January President Christina Kallas asked, "Do we (still) need a women's bar association?" To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2005

In her column for December President Christina Kallas discusses the Mental Health Court initiative. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2005

In her column for November President Christina Kallas asked us all to honor the memory of Ms. Rosa Parks by making one change. To view the President's message in full, click here.

October 2005

In her column for October in honor of Mediation Settlement Month, President Christina Kallas discusses whether mediation is an underused tool in a lawyer's toolbox. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2005

In her column for September, President Christina Kallas reflected upon the changes in our country since September 11th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

June 2005

In her column for June, President Christina Kallas discusses change and continuity. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column in April, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about sexual politics and "women's work." She took issue with Harvard President Lawrence Summers' recent remarks implying that women are innately less suited to pursing careers in science or engineering. Such retrograde thinking is self-defeating. Mr. Summers had to apologize, and Harvard is now actively address the status of women in academia. Ms. Bryson also discussed upcoming events, including the Association's Annual Meeting, a CLE program on "Evolving Opportunities for Women' Lawyers," the Foundation's next fundraising breakfast, the WBASNY Convention, and of course our fantastic 70th Anniversary celebration on June 1st. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2005

In her column in February, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about matters of life and death. She related the experiences of a friend fighting breast cancer and her mother and family addressing the loss of two brothers to AIDS several years ago, and how each circumstance, though very different, teaches us once again the importance of choosing to live life to its fullest every day. By contrast, she considers the proposal in the NYS Legislature to reinstate the death penalty, and WBASNY's brave stance in opposition. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2005

In her column in January, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of taking steps to ensure that judges in New York have the appropriate qualifications and integrity to ensure the fair and equal administration of justice. She discusses pending legislation and proposed amendments to the Rules of Judicial Conduct that would have an influence on the method of selecting state court judges and the rules that would apply to candidates for judicial office in New York. Ms. Bryson was honored to chair a WBASNY Task Force to look at the proposed legislation and rule changes, and she discusses the process and proposals. She also describes the recent gala celebration WBASNY's 25 Anniversary and the wonderful presentation of the inaugural "Betty Weinberg Ellerin Mentoring Award" to Justice Ellerin. Finally, she reminds everyone of the importance of ensuring that their membership is renewed by January 31, 2005. New members are also welcome, and they can join for half-price dues starting in January! To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2004

In her column in December, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of speaking out and being heard. She demonstrated the value of the Association's screening of candidates for judicial office, particularly now, when the integrity of the judiciary is under attack. Because many of our members practice in solo and small firm settings, Ms. Bryson recommended that members appear before the Commission on Solo and Small Firm Practice, which is holding hearings and looking for comments, concerns and suggestions to make the lives of attorneys in these settings and their clients easier. Members should also plan to join us at several upcoming events that promise to be very exciting, including the NYWBA Foundation's Breakfast Series Speaker Event, a fundraiser scheduled for December 1st, WBASNY's 25th Anniversary Gala on December 2nd that will pay tribute to our own past President, the Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, for her nearly 50 years of mentoring and service to women attorneys and judges throughout New York and across the country, and the New York Women's Agenda's Star Breakfast on December 7th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2004

In her column in November, President Elizabeth Bryson celebrated all the wonderful programs and events that happened this fall, including our Annual Membership Reception. She also discussed the recent controversy with respect to screening the qualifications of candidates for judicial office in New York County, which became the subject of an article in the New York Law Journal. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2004

In her column in September, President Elizabeth Bryson asked members to join her in celebrating the Association's 70th Anniversary year (2004-05). Coincidentally, it was also the 25th anniversary year for the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY), which is the umbrella organization for all 16 women's bar associations across New York State. The NYWBA and its past President Joan Ellenbogen were instrumental in the formation of WBASNY, and it is a joy to see that it is flourishing. This is Beth's second term as President, and in her column she discussed the excitement of continuing programs begun last year and new programs that will begin this year. She also congratulated everyone who was involved in the wonderful year-end festivities, including our Annual Dinner and the WBASNY Convention. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column for April, President Elizabeth Bryson congratulated several women who make history every day, including the 11 honorees designated for Women's History Month by the National Women's History Project and the New York City Commission on Women. She provided an update on the proposed rules that we have supported to allow asylum for women who are victims of domestic violence or other brutality that is directly or indirectly endorsed by their country's governments. Ms. Bryson also highlighted numerous upcoming events, including the NYWBA Annual Meeting and the Annual Ethics Forum, both in April, and the Women's Bar Convention in New Orleans and the NYWBA Annual Dinner, both in May. To view the President's message in full, click here. .

March 2004

In her March 2004 column, Ms. Bryson notes that NYWBA's membership has increased by over 33 percent from last year, and nearly 50% from two years ago. She praises the terrific work of NYWBA members, Officers, Board members, Committee Chairs, and others who worked on our membership drive and demonstrate why our bar association is so important, strong and vital. She also salutes two people who may not be lawyers but whose contributions are absolutely invaluable to the Association and the NYWBA Foundation - Executive Director Marta Toro and NYWBA Foundation member Denise Coleman. "Our Association is blessed with so many wonderful women and men who contribute their talents." To view the President's message in full, click here.

February 2004

In her February 2004 column, Ms. Bryson discussed the importance of mentoring and networking, especially for women attorneys. She also announces that the Association's Annual Meeting will be on April 28, 2004, when the 2004-05 officers and directors will be elected. Our gala Annual Dinner will be on May 26, 2004. At that event, awards will be presented to Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Hon. Jacqueline Silbermann, Administrative Judge of the NY County Supreme Court and Chief Administrative Judge for NYS Matrimonial Courts. To view the President's message in full, click here.

December 2003

In her December 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson profiled important issues for our military, including the incidents of rape and sexual harassment at our military academies, the scourge of domestic violence, and the shameful track record of "don't ask, don't tell." She also discussed our exciting membership drive and the Reception Honoring Newly Elected and Appointed Judges. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2003

In her November 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson discusses the importance and benefits of membership, as well as the recent visit of distinguished attorneys from Malaysia who were invited by the U.S. State Department to meet with NYWBA representatives. To view the President's message in full, click here.

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