Report renews call for decriminalizing sex work in DC

A new report is again calling on D.C. to work toward decriminalizing sex work, saying the laws aren’t effective, and target vulnerable, low-income residents who face discrimination and are simply trying to make a living.

“This is something the D.C. Council should take up as soon as possible,” said Sean Bland, a senior associate at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute of National and Global Health Law.

Researchers partnered with the Whitman-Walker Institute to produce the study results that included interviews with sex workers.

Offering a list of reasons why the laws should be eased during a virtual press event Thursday, the study’s authors said the laws “stigmatize and victimize sex workers, degrading their health and trapping them in cycles of poverty and homelessness,” according to a release about the presentation.

Bland told WTOP that the laws are especially bad for certain marginalized groups.

“LGBTQ folks, particularly trans women, and specifically Black trans women,” Bland said. “[Trans women and Black trans women] go into sex work really to just meet their basic needs and to earn a living because they’re often shut out from employment opportunities because of anti-trans discrimination.”

Bland also said that there’s a need to address housing, and improve access to medical care and HIV programs.

The report found that sex workers have trouble accessing regular medical care, community programs and other services that “trap sex workers in cycles of poverty and homelessness.”

In fall 2019, the D.C. Council held a hearing on the proposed Community Safety and Health Amendment Act, but the bill never went to a vote.

“Not much has happened since then, and this needs to be a priority going forward,” Bland said.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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