We Will Win: Bill to Decriminalize Sex Work in DC

We’ve been really busy over the last year.

We’ve been canvassing, going through neighborhoods in DC to talk with our community about the needs of people in the sex trades. We’ve been connecting with DC Councilmembers and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. We’ve hosted political educations about ending violence, harassment, and oppression against Black and Brown trans and cis women, trans men, nonbinary people, gender nonconforming people, and others who are TLGBQIA+.

We’ve served as liaisons between sex workers and non-sex workers to mediate conversations and concerns. We’ve written extensively about police abuse against people in the sex trades in DC. We’ve conducted community needs assessments of sex workers, and have identified that housing is the primary need for the majority of street-based workers in the District.

We’ve held fundraisers and provided care packages to people in the sex trades. We’ve created art for resistance: art like sidewalk chalk, banners, zines, chants, and music. We’ve held vigils for our fallen sisters.

And today, hope greets us like a summer sunrise. DC Councilmember David Grosso, along with Councilmember Nadeau, Councilmember White, And Councilmember Bonds, have introduced to the DC Council a bill that would decriminalize sex work in DC.

DECRIMNOW organizers, advocates, allies, and Councilmember David Grosso at the press conference for the bill introduction. (June 3, 2019)

DECRIMNOW organizers, advocates, allies, and Councilmember David Grosso at the press conference for the bill introduction. (June 3, 2019)

The bill, titled “Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019,” would remove criminal penalties from the buying and selling of sex in DC, while maintaining existing laws on sex trafficking. It’s clear that criminalizing sex work results in increased police violence and incarceration of Black and Brown trans and cis women, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people, and also creates dangerous conditions for people in the sex trades through stigma that increases violence and makes it difficult to access safety. Decriminalizing sex work is the right thing to do.

At the press conference, several organizers and advocates spoke out about their support of the bill, the dangers of police brutality and mass incarceration, and about the need for true safety for all oppressed people. Many community members joined us as we spoke our truths in front of the steps of the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Ave NW.

This is a historic day, and this is still the beginning—the next step is getting the bill to a hearing in the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety! With a hearing, we’ll be able to have a conversation about the bill with councilmembers within the committee and community members, and we’ll have the opportunity to testify. This would bring us one step closer to getting the bill through the committee, and to a vote for the whole DC Council to try to get it passed!

Getting to this point is the result of years—decades—of organizing by Black, Latinx, Native, Asian, and other Brown people. Let's get DC to decriminalize sex work in DC. We will win.

—the DECRIMNOW squad