HomeCommunity IssuesWhy some want AAPI massage workers decriminalized in NY

Why some want AAPI massage workers decriminalized in NY

Two years since the Atlanta spa shooting, advocates say the increased policing of unlicensed Asian massage workers in New York reveals the shortcomings of anti-trafficking laws. But with the reintroduction of a decriminalization bill that could provide safer work conditions for NY massage workers, advocates hope that this will highlight the detriments of over-policing, according to Prism Reports

Introduced in 2021, the New York State Assembly bill, A8281, seeks to protect unlicensed massage workers from criminal penalties which supporters say leave massage therapists vulnerable to coercive conduct from law enforcement. Grassroots organizations like the Red Canary Song drafted and pushed this bill after seeing a surge in police presence targeting Asian massage businesses, Prism Reports revealed. 

“It takes away all the criminalized aspects of sex workers just doing their job,” said advocate SX Noir to NY1. “And what this will do is allow sex workers to have better access to housing, to medical resources and ultimately just living their lives.”

Obtaining a masseur license, according to the New York State Education Department Office of Professions, requires applicants to submit evidence of English proficiency and complete 1000 hours of coursework, which can cost anywhere between $3,000 to $15,000 for a one-year program. A report by Red Canary Song found that those desperate for a massage therapist license got scammed by fraudulent professional agencies taking advantage of NY’s rules and regulations.  

Licensing laws in NYC mandate the criminalization of many massage parlors, which as a whole, is expected to increase 20 percent from 2021-2031—much faster than the average. If unlicensed, a person can be charged with a class “E” felony punishable by up to four years in prison. However, advocates say the process isn’t that simple. 

In partnership with organizations like the Massage Parlor Outreach Project, Butterfly, Bowen Public Affairs, and the Brown University Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice Human Trafficking Research Center, Red Canary Song detailed the root reasonings for the sudden over-policing. 

“These targeted attacks are inextricably linked to the misplaced advocacy of the anti-trafficking movement, which often claims it is saving Asian massage workers, when it is, in actuality, subjecting them to varied forms of state and stated-sanctioned-if-privatized violence,” the report states. 

Not all trapped in sex work support the bill.

Cristian Eduardo is a survivor of sex trafficking. She told PIX11 said lawmakers should provide a way out for those stuck in prostitution including education. He called the industry very dangerous.

“It’s very sad to hear advocates like saying the same words that my traffickers told me,” Eduardo said.

AsAmNews is incorporated in the state of California as Asian American Media, Inc, a non-profit with 501c3 status. We are currently funded by our readers and the California Library Commission’s Stop The Hate program under the State Dept of Social Services. See their funded resources for direct, prevention and intervention services here. Find additional content from AsAmNews on Instagram , TwitterTiktok and FacebookPlease consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story, or making a tax-deductible donation.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


  1. Massage therapists are trained licensed professionals. Sex workers perform sex acts. We need to stop interchanging the terms to create the perception that they are the same. Everything Asian does not mean sex. If the bill is to legalize and decriminalize sex work, then make that clear in the title and text. If the bill is to protect people from sex trafficking, then call it what it is. But don’t phrase a bill as if it is protecting unlicensed massage therapists who are performing legitimate therapeutic care to gain hours towards their license and then call them Asian sex workers in the same breath.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading