Statement of Monica Hopkins-Maxwell, Executive Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia:
“The Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Safety and Health Amendment Act introduced today would remove criminal penalties for consensual sex work among adults in the District.
The ACLU has long opposed the criminalization of consensual sex work. Here in the District, decades of punitive laws and policies have guided a failed approach to ending prostitution and have made our communities less safe through discredited initiatives such as “Prostitution-Free Zones.” Criminalization has placed vulnerable D.C. residents at greater risk of violence, police harassment, and exposure to exploitation. It has led to a cycle of violence, poverty, and incarceration that only creates additional barriers to more traditional employment for those engaging in survival sex work.
Moreover, the enforcement of laws prohibiting sex work has a disproportionate negative impact on groups already facing discrimination, including communities of color, LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, and those with criminal convictions. Metropolitan Police have long used unlawful, warrantless stops and searches for condoms as evidence against those perceived to be sex workers. Women of color, and in particular, trans women of color, have been primary targets of this type of profiling and police harassment, which has only furthered distrust of law enforcement in these communities.
In addition, the ACLU-DC believes that any law that criminalizes consensual sex between adults is a violation of the right to individual privacy that should not be subject to government interference. These laws impede sex workers’ ability to negotiate safer sex practices, screen clients, report incidents of violence, and access basic needs like housing and health services.
The ACLU-DC is proud to be a member of the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and commends Councilmember David Grosso for prioritizing public health and safety by introducing this bill.”