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racial equity

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Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

For Immediate Release: 
June 3, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – With increased support from Council colleagues, Councilmember David Grosso today announced the re-introduction of legislation that would reduce violence and improve public health and safety by removing criminal penalties for consensual sexual exchange in the District of Columbia.

“It is long past time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a new approach that focuses on human rights, health, and safety,” Grosso said at a press conference and rally held in support of the bill with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition on Monday.

The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 eliminates criminal prohibitions and penalties for consensual sex work and establishes a task force to evaluate the effects of removing criminal penalties and recommend further improvements to public safety, health, and human rights.

“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,” Grosso said.

Removing criminal penalties for engaging in sexual exchange reduces public violence and protects sex workers. People in the sex trade are safest when their work is not criminalized. It allows them to better screen clients, to negotiate safer sex practices, and to report incidents of trafficking or client and police violence.

“Decriminalizing sex work will make life easier not only for the people that complain about K Street, but also for the girls who are getting turned away from jobs, housing, health care, and more. Everyone needs to survive, and everyone needs to make money. If Sis has to turn to sex work so she can buy a room or so she can eat, don't send her to jail,” said Tiara Moten, Lead Organizer with No Justice No Pride.

Eighty percent of sex workers report experiencing some form of violence in the course of their work. This is especially true for sex workers from communities that already face increased discrimination such as immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals of color. Criminalization discourages sex workers from reporting these incidents.

“It is appropriate that we address this issue at the start of LGBTQ Pride month that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn. We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender individuals engage in sex work at higher rates, making decriminalization of sex work an LGBTQ issue,” said Benjamin Brooks, Assistant Director for Policy at Whitman Walker Health. “Removing criminal penalties recognizes the dignity of the individual and removes key barriers to preventing HIV and improving health for our communities.”

"As a faith leader, a Black woman, and an advocate for abused and neglected children, at-risk youth, adjudicated youth, victims of domestic violence, women’s issues, and cancer patients I believe that Black women deserve to live free from violence and provide for themselves and their families. I support the decriminalization of sex work because criminalization only harms our communities and we must support and love one another not ostracize each other,” said Rev. Shirley Currie, associate minister at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Protections for minors and prohibitions against coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking already exists in D.C. law and remain untouched by Grosso’s bill.

“This legislation slightly differs from the previous version by leaving some language in the code making it crystal clear that coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking are not tolerated in D.C.,” Grosso said.

Grosso’s proposal now enjoys expanded support on the Council. Only Councilmember Robert White co-introduced the legislation back in 2017. This time, Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau have added their names.

Grosso developed the legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC), a coalition of more than nearly two dozen local and national organizations: HIPS, ACLU DC, GLAA, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, D.C. Rape Crisis Center, Amara Legal Center, National Center for Trans Equality, Whitman Walker Health, Casa Ruby, Best Practices Policy Project, SWOP-USA, Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, Black Lives Matter DMV, No Justice No Pride, D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Bread for the City, Network for Victims Recovery DC, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Ultraviolet, Center for Health and Gender Equity, and URGE.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed their voice to the development of this legislation, has endorsed its approach, or engaged with elected officials to build to the unprecedented level of support we see here today,” Grosso said. “ I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.”

The bill will officially be re-introduced tomorrow, June 4, 2019 at the Council's regular legislative meeting. It will likely be referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

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Pending racial equity legislation must include requirements for D.C. Council

For Immediate Release: 
April 25, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Pending racial equity legislation must include requirements for D.C. Council

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, a member of the Committee on Government Operations, on today’s committee hearing on B23-38, the Racial Equity Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2019:

“In recent years, the word ‘equity’ has become trendy—but it is so much more than a buzzword. It is a recognition that we do not all start at the same place. Equity recognizes that persistent disparities faced by those who start furthest behind or face additional barriers will not be solved without targeting opportunities, resources, and supports to those individuals.

“We must directly name and work to address racial disparities so that one's racial identity is not a predictor of their educational, health, economic or other outcomes. As chairperson of the Committee on Education for the past 4 years, I have seen how explicit and implicit biases have affected our students of color and their academic success. The achievement gap between these students and their white peers has persisted and we will not narrow it until we fully approach our policies through an equity framework. Not only in education but in housing, in our health system, in workforce development and business—it is imperative that we do more to recognize the historical legacy and persistence of racist systems, policies and institutions.

“I want to thank Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie for his leadership on and commitment to addressing racial equity issues. Earlier this year I was excited to participate in a symposium he convened on this topic and later enthusiastically joined him as a co-introducer of the Racial Equity Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2019, which is receiving a public hearing before the Committee on Government Operations today. The District of Columbia Government is long overdue for this conversation and even longer overdue for action.

“The changes the bill makes to executive branch operations are necessary. Requiring that employees of the Mayor and her agencies undergo racial equity training and that agencies apply a racial equity framework when implementing policies and assessing performance will create a government that better serves the needs of all its constituents.

"Part of our government is the Council, which is not covered under the requirements included in this legislation. As a co-equal branch of government, the Council’s actions have a profound impact on our residents. Our work to fund District services through the annual budget, hold agencies accountable for meeting residents’ needs, and propose and debate solutions to our constituents’ concerns should also be subjected to the same standards we seek to impose on the executive. I fear it will be too easy to reverse, intentionally or unintentionally, the positive outcomes this legislation would produce if we do not implement our own racial equity framework and require councilmembers and staff to participate in ongoing racial equity training.

“The work certainly will not be easy but it is absolutely necessary. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we improve and advance this legislation to bring about meaningful change to how our government serves our residents.”

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