D.C. Council member David Grosso said he is considering introducing legislation this fall that would decriminalize prostitution in the city and provide sex workers with resources to be safe and get out of the business if they want to.
Grosso’s announcement comes on the heels of Amnesty International’s controversial recommendation Tuesday calling for “full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.”
“It is something that my staff and I have been working on and thinking about for a few months now,” Grosso (I-At Large) said Wednesday. “Once the Amnesty report came out, it validated a lot of the concerns that I have of how we handle this in the District.”
Amnesty argued that decriminalizing sex work is the most effective way to defend sex workers’ human rights. Grosso similarly said this policy move would “respect the fact that sex workers are human beings, too.”
“The only way we can solve this is to work closely with the folks that are in this type of environment and get them what they need,” Grosso said. “We don’t want this on the streets, and it’s not going to necessarily go away if we continue to criminalize it.”
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s spokesman, Michael Czin, wrote in an email that the administration opposes decriminalization. Police Chief Cathy Lanier also wasn’t quick to back Grosso’s potential proposal, saying such a policy change merits a citywide discussion.
“Many of our communities dealing with the disorder associated with street-level prostitution certainly do not agree that sex work is a victimless crime,” Lanier wrote in an e-mail. “Moreover, I know that Council member Grosso is equally concerned with the risk to victims of human trafficking.
“Ultimately, the police will enforce whatever laws the District enacts,” Lanier continued, “but this should not be changed without a thorough debate about its potential merits and risks.”
D.C. police started its latest clampdown on sex work last month, organizing undercover stings throughout downtown and along West Virginia Avenue NE in Trinidad.
Since July 14, police have arrested 157 people for crimes related to prostitution. Recent police operations have tracked men seeking prostitutes through the Internet, placing fake ads to lure potential customers into rooms.
In February, a lawyer was fatally stabbed and robbed in a downtown hotel room by a woman who replied to an ad he posted online. The woman pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder.