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Advocates introduce bill aiming to decriminalize sex work in DC

Supporters say criminalizing of sex work disproportionately affects people of color, those experiencing homelessness, members of the LGBTQIA* communities and more.

WASHINGTON -- Advocates for the decriminalization of sex work gathered at the Wilson Building Monday for a press conference to re-introduce legislation to protect street-based sex workers in The District. 

Councilmember David Grosso unveiled the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019, aimed at reducing violence and improving public health and safety by removing criminal penalties for consensual sex work in D.C. 

Grosso was joined by the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC) who created a campaign called DecrimNow a “movement to decriminalize sex work and to promote the well-being and safety of people in the sex trade,” according to their website

According to Grosso the bill “retains protections for minors and prohibitions against coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking. Establishes task force to evaluate decriminalization's impact & recommend improvements.” 

Supporters of the bill say criminalizing of sex work affects communities of color, those experiencing homelessness and members of the LGBTQIA* communities at a disproportionate rates.

It also has a negative effect on immigrants, people with disabilities and people with a criminal past, according to advocates. 

“By removing criminal penalties, this legislation will reduce the vulnerability of sex workers to exploitation and violence, promote public health by improving access to services, and help address human trafficking,” DecrimNow said. “The decriminalization of sex work is one step in ending this violence and reducing the harm caused from a constant state of trauma.” 

The bill is currently backed by DC Councilmembers Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau.

The organization said they believe people in the sex trade should be given the same economic, social and political rights as other jobs. According to the SWAC website, more than 80% of street-based sex workers are subject to violence. 

By subjecting them to criminal penalties, sex workers would become more vulnerable to even more violence and possible police abuse, advocates say. 

More information on bill and SWAC’s DecrimNow campaign, visit decrimnow.org.

Causes event in Washington by DecrimNow DC and 4 others on Monday, June 3 2019 with 360 people interested and 94 people going. 5 posts in the discussion.