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sex work

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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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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

For Immediate Release: 
May 16, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on a new analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Survey results that found 7.4 percent of D.C. high schoolers have exchanged sex for money, a place to stay, food or something else of value, as first reported by WAMU:

“Students turning to trading sex for survival needs is a stunning failure of the District of Columbia to aid the youth who need our support most. What is most frustrating is that we know these kids. We have the opportunity to help them every day when they step foot into our school buildings. Yet we do not meet them where they are with the services they need.

“How can we demand academic excellence from them and put them on the path to a successful future when they do not know where they will rest their head that night or where their next meal is coming from? The study also notes that these students are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If these students do not have access to food and shelter, it's unlikely they have regular access to medical treatment.

“Compounding these disadvantages, D.C. continues to take a failed law enforcement approach to the sex trade. While I helped end the prosecution of minors involved in commercial sex in 2014, they are still subject to arrest. Adults are still fully criminalized, even though these conditions of poverty do not change when someone turns 18. Criminalizing those who engage in sex work directly undercuts their efforts to leave behind homelessness or hunger, while exposing them to greater physical and health risks. Arrest records become a barrier to other income sources or opportunities, leaving them with fewer options than before. It’s a trap.

“Despite this upsetting state of affairs, I believe we continue to make progress. We have included more money in this year’s budget to support homeless youth and provide greater access to food. I have been meeting with education leaders to address our rising HIV and STI rates among youth through comprehensive sexual education and reproductive health resources in schools.

“However, to say ‘We need to do more’ is a gross understatement. We need to provide additional social, behavioral, and physical health supports in our schools, policies I have pursued during my time as chairperson of the Committee on Education. It’s also time for a new approach to how D.C. handles sex trade, from one of criminalization to one that is focused on health and safety.”

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