Viewing entries tagged
sex workers

Comment

Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

For Immediate Release:
April 9, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the government shutdown of websites that allowed sex workers to operate with a greater degree of safety than on the streets:

“The latest government attacks on online platforms used by sex workers are directly undermining the safety, health, and human rights of these individuals. I am deeply concerned as I read the reactions of D.C. residents who will be pushed into less safe situations on the streets where they will be subjected to more violence, have decreased ability to negotiate condom use, and encounter greater risk of arrest, making them less likely to contact authorities if they are attacked. In working with communities in D.C. over the past few years to develop better policy approaches to the issue of commercial sex, I have heard far too many personal stories of violence and harm as a result of the criminalized nature of the sex trade.

“Rather than work on the streets, sex workers have utilized a number of websites that allow them to better screen clients and negotiate safer interactions. Several of those websites closed in the past week following Congressional approval of a pair of bills, SESTA and FOSTA. This legislation is alleged to combat human trafficking, but there is little evidence that it will accomplish that noble goal. In fact, the two bills were opposed by the largest network in the country of organizations serving human trafficking survivors. Rather than help people who are being coerced into commercial sex, the effect of these website closures will be to push trafficking further underground. This also has the effect of harming innumerable people involved in the sex trade who are not being coerced but, by a complex combination of choice and circumstance, are seeking to earn money. The sweeping nature of the legislation also undermines the work of harm reduction organizations that work with these communities, thereby preventing the provision of critical services.

“Due to the great risk of violence faced by street-based sex workers, our government needs to take bold and urgent action. I call on Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham and U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to temporarily suspend arrests and prosecutions of those involved in commercial sex unless the individual has caused violence or coercion. Instead, the Chief and U.S. Attorney, along with front-line officers and commanders, should meet with individuals trading sex with the goal of understanding the risks they face and what steps are necessary to build trust in order to prevent and respond to violence and coercion. I am happy to work with both MPD and USAO to facilitate such a meeting.

 “We must remember that there are human beings’ welfare and lives on the line. We have a responsibility as government officials to look out for those who our society and laws marginalize. We should be pursuing evidence-based solutions to stop coercion and help minors who are exploited, including by addressing the demand for housing, food, employment, rationale immigration laws, and respect for human rights.”

###

Comment

1 Comment

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: October 5, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White

FACT SHEET & SECTION BY SECTION | BILL TEXT | RESOURCES & STATISTICSCOALITION CONTACTS | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To repeal an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the Punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health by removing criminal penalties for engaging in commercial sex.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Good morning. I am At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, and I am pleased to be here with community members and the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition.

As you may know, all my work on the Council is based in the human rights framework.

That commitment includes speaking out for the human rights of the most marginalized communities, including sex workers.

I believe that we as a society are coming to realize that excessive criminalization is causing more harm than good, from school discipline to drug laws to homelessness.

It is time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health, and safety.

That is why today I am announcing the introduction of the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2017.

I developed this legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and the bill is in line with recommendations from Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, U.N. AIDS, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other expert organizations.

The bill is quite simple really—it repeals a number of laws, or parts of laws, that criminalize adults for exchanging sex for money or other things of value.

By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise.

Some of the laws that this bill would repeal are over a hundred years old, showing how the criminalization approach has been a total failure.

There is plenty of other evidence that this approach puts people at risk for violence, inhibits the fight against HIV, and results in the exact opposite of what the laws purported intentions, but I will leave that to my fellow speakers to describe in greater detail.

The bill does not change any of our laws regarding coercion or exploitation, which will continue to be prohibited. Nor does it change how minors involved in sex trade are considered.

Sex workers themselves are often some of the best-positioned people to identify and help people in situations of exploitation, and by removing the criminal sanctions on them, we can improve our efforts on that front.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me work on this legislation and 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.

1 Comment

Comment

Commercial sex workers need safer spaces and more economic options

For Immediate Release:

January 11, 2017

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987

Commercial sex workers need safer spaces and more economic options

Washington, DC – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso on the closure of the adult services section of the website Backpage.com:

“The closure of the adult services section of the classifieds website Backpage.com worsens dangerous working conditions for those involved in commercial sex. Although it was far from perfect, the website provided a safer way for sex workers to advertise their services and screen potential customers—by removing that venue, the government is directly making involvement in commercial sex more dangerous for sex workers. Unfortunately, so many sex workers have been relying on Backpage.com because of previous government action against other online venues that also gave sex workers greater safety and greater autonomy, including Craigslist and Rentboy.

“These kinds of tactics are well-known to sex workers and those who follow these issues—law enforcement actions against sex workers on the streets and in venues pushed these communities further into the shadows. But shuttering a webpage or locking up someone for solicitation does not address the fundamental economic motivation behind most sex workers’ actions. These actions do not put a roof over someone’s head or pay for college debt or cover the utility bills.

“By attacking Backpage.com, and by not listening to sex workers, the government is further limiting the options for people who already have too few. Instead we should be increasing options—encouraging safer working conditions for sex workers, creating more avenues for people to leave commercial sex if they want to, and designing interventions to stop coercion and exploitation based in data, not moralistic campaigns. We should be dedicating resources to harm reduction services, working to eliminate stigma against sex workers, and partnering with sex workers to identify and stop situations of coercion and exploitation. Although the government targeted Backpage.com allegedly to address human trafficking in the commercial sex sector, this move actually undermines that work, while making working conditions more dangerous for everyone in the sector.

“Just last month I was honored to join community members in D.C. to commemorate the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I heard heartbreaking stories from D.C. and around the world about people whose lives were taken because they were viewed as less than human due to their involvement in sex work. To stop those stories from repeating, we need to listen to what people engaged in commercial sex have to say about their own safety and well-being.”

 

###

 

Comment