Recently four DC Councilmembers presented Bill 23-0318 (aka The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019) stating it will improve “community health and safety”.
While this bill sounds as though it has the best interests of the community in mind the reality is that, if passed, this proposed bill will fully decriminalize prostitution in Washington DC. What does full decriminalization mean? It means that not only will be it be legal to sell sex acts, it will also legalize the purchase of sex, pimping and brothels. This bill will empower those that are in the business of exploiting some of the most vulnerable of our society.
On October 17, the DC City Council’s Judiciary Committee hosted a hearing for this bill that went into the early hours of October 18. 180 groups and residents testified for and against this bill. Among the 180 were survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation who bravely shared their stories and warnings of what will happen if this bill is passed. Sadly, they were met with much pushback from Councilmembers.
While those there were all in agreement that sex trafficking is illegal what was very evident was the difficulty in recognizing coercion in prostitution arrests. One individual currently being prostituted shared that it was “the only option left” in order to provide for basic needs. It is impossible to separate prostitution by “choice” from those that are trafficked.
And does it really matter? It all falls under the term exploitation. Not only are there pimps and brothel owners benefitting financially but there is a very real imbalance of power. And it doesn’t matter whether it is a billionaire purchasing someone or a factory worker. Money is being exchanged for sex. Fully decriminalizing leads to further exploitation of those with the greatest vulnerabilities and opens up more avenues of trafficking as demand increases.
How can you get involved? If you live in DC contact your councilmember and ask them to oppose the bill. If you have friends that live in DC ask them to do the same. Contact your own member of Congress and express your lack of support of the bill. Speak out!