6 Ways to Support DECRIMNOW DC

For the list of 6 ways to support DECRIMNOW DC, please scroll to the end of this blog post.

There are a couple more days to submit testimony telling DC Council to decriminalize sex work.

As a coalition of organizations and allies, DecrimNow has been working on the decriminalization of adult consensual sex work in DC for the past two years. Decriminalizing sex work is the first step to protecting cis and trans black and brown women, undocumented migrants, and people with disabilities freedom from arrest, deportation, and incarceration. It is an integral part to creating the future that we want to see: a future free from police violence, prisons, and the disregard of sex workers as valuable members of our communities. 

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We are determined to build a future world where all people in the sex trades are safe, and where sex workers can work free from harm, are valued, and have the resources they need to survive. Through love for ourselves and love for each other, we have created a strong and supportive community and have achieved many miracles along the way. We have amassed thousands of signatures through canvassing, gathered support from the public, and made decriminalizing sex work an urgent priority. The October hearing on the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 was another miracle and a culmination of our struggle. 

The hearing in front of the Committee of Judiciary and Public Safety was an opportunity for council members to hear powerful testimony from our coalition. The room was packed full of members of our coalition, supporters, and opposition. The hearing began with Councilmember David Grosso, who has been working closely on the bill with members of SWAC. The council member gave an intro speech detailing why decriminalizing sex work is the best way to keep sex workers and trafficking survivors safe from harm. He labeled the police violence that sex workers face, the rising rates of incarceration for Black and brown communities, and the importance of dismantling racist laws that further police violence and incarceration. 

Several members within SWAC gave testimony to their experiences as Black and brown sex workers and why they support the passing of the bill. Tamika Spellman, an advocate with HIPS and sex worker, described how she has put her life on the line for this campaign through telling her life story. She described how this visibility puts her at increased risk of state violence, and how she is looking to the bill to change that dynamic. She emphasized the unsustainability of working with no chance for promotion and needing to take care of her kids. Incredibly poignant testimony also came from supporters such as the GLA, HIPS Executive Director Cyndee Clay, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lorenzo Allen Green, and the Black Women’s Health Imperative’s Executive Director Linda Goler Blount and intern Breya Johnson. We’re so grateful for the support of so many organizations and individuals who understand that criminalization harms Black and brown communities.

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Along with the support, came heavy backlash from those opposed to the passing of the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019. Many of the opponents gave testimonies that ranged from broad conflation of sex work and sex trafficking, shaming of sex workers, and disinformation. Some of the opponents were survivors of sexual harm, and we truly believe that the bill and our efforts would help decrease harm for everyone. One testimony broadly placed the blame for trafficking upon sex work itself rather than larger systems that cause sex trafficking and youth participation in the sex trade, such as domestic violence, homelessness, and systemic poverty. They ended with asking the audience if they would ever want their daughter to be a sex worker, using language that stigmatizes how many people survive due to choice or circumstance. Tina Frundt, the Executive Director of Courtney’s House, also made a similar conflation between decriminalizing sex work and sex trafficking. 

Unfortunately, the Committee of the Judiciary and Public Safety organized the order of testimony to frontload the opposition in the beginning of the hearing, so much of the DECRIMNOW team had to wait over 10 hours to provide their testimony. Still, this meant that the hearing ended on a triumphant note with many more testimonies detailing why decriminalization is the right thing to do. The council can now vote on the bill, and doing so affirmatively will be transformational for Black and brown trans and cis women and other TLGBQIA+ people, undocumented black migrants, and people with disabilities who rely on sex work as a means of survival. 

It is vital that we take action in the aftermath of the hearing to ensure that the council knows that decriminalization is crucial to everyone’s safety and wellbeing. In order to get the bill passed, we’re going to need everyone’s help and support in taking action! There are several small actions that we as individuals can take that can have an impact on the council’s decision. Below, is a list of actions we can all take to support the bill and to support sex workers! 

6 Ways to Support DECRIMNOW DC

  1. Call councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6) (202)-724-8073 , Anita Bonds (202)-724-8064, Vincent Gray (Ward 7) (202)-727-8064, Mary Cheh (Ward 3) (202)- 724-8062, and Jack Evans (Ward 2) (202)-724-8058

  2. Submit a written testimony by Nov 1st to the judiciary@dccouncil.us saying why you support the decriminalization of sex work

  3. Donate to DecrimNow https://www.decrimnow.org/take-action and to No Justice No Pride Trans Sanctuary which provides temporary housing to 40 trans and queer sex workers.  https://www.patreon.com/nojusticenopride

  4. Go canvassing with HIPS, CASS, and BYP100  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfOBhR4lKWG0f3fRfnmFZlJAqREqxx9HTzBVAyVPLXd0NjUiQ/viewform

  5. Create and submit art and share it on social media and send to info@decrimnow.org

  6. Sign the petition to decriminalize sex work in DC https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/decrimnowdc/

Thank you for supporting DECRIMNOW. Together, we will win!

—Mekdes Sisay
BYP100 DC Member
Organizer with DECRIMNOW