The Washington, DC City Council will consider legislation to fully decriminalize the sex trade in the District of Columbia. A public hearing on the proposed bill is scheduled for Oct. 17.
The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 was introduced by DC council member David Grosso, an independent, on June 4. The bill, if passed, would decriminalize sex work in the nation’s capital.
According to ABC News, the measure would remove all criminal penalties for commercial sexual exchanges, such as prostitution, for those 18 years and older.
A letter signed by more than 200 people, many of them former sex workers, sent an opposition letter to the city council on Oct. 2, publicly criticizing the proposed law. Such a law would open the door for sex trafficking, brothels, pimping, and violence against women, the letter’s author Rev. Dr. Marian Hatcher pointed out.
“We, the undersigned survivors of the sex trade, have collectively experienced hundreds of years of abuse, violence, objectification, and dehumanization in the sex trade. We know first-hand that prostitution is not a victimless crime and that most individuals involved in the sex trade are not there voluntarily and have experienced long term harm as a result of being bought and sold. We STRONGLY OPPOSE pending legislation to FULLY decriminalize the entire sex trade in DC, the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019,” Hatcher wrote.
“This legislation decriminalizes the sex industry in DC, including sex buying, acts of pimping/procurement, and brothel owning. This measure will increase violence against women and children, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade, while greatly increasing instances of sex trafficking in the District,” Hatcher continued.
“Our voices MUST be heard in this discussion because we have lived the harm you want to make legal,” she noted.
Grosso introduced the bill on June 4. In a statement before introducing the bill, he said the bill was co-sponsored by almost a third of the council and was backed by local and national organizations.
“By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help connect them to the services they need to live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise,” the statement said.
If the measure is passed, it would make DC the first city in the US where prostitution and sex work is decriminalized. Currently, there are only a few counties in Nevada that have legalized the practice.
Several organizations have expressed their concern over the proposed bill and believe it could further promote exploitation.
World Without Exploitation is one of the organization’s firmly against the proposed city council’s legislation.
“This legislation would decriminalize the sex industry in DC, including sex buying, acts of pimping/procurement, and brothel owning. This measure will increase violence against women and children, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade, while greatly increasing instances of sex trafficking in the District,” according to the organization’s website.
“We are opposed to the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019. This bill won’t keep anyone healthy or safe,” the website concludes.
The organization has created an online petition for users to let the DC City Council know they are opposed to legalized pimping and brothel owning in the District. You can sign the petition here.