D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) recently resubmitted a bill to legalize prostitution in the District [“House GOP focuses on sex work bill,” Metro, June 13]. Prostitution is a symptom of the larger problems of poverty, the patriarchy and racism. Services to these vulnerable women, in many cases with drug problems or attempting to support a family in the face of extreme poverty, are lacking. Removing the criminal penalty for prostitution is not the solution.

Many progressives think of prostitution as a quaint moral issue or believe its illegality is a barrier to empowered women getting proper health care or protection from physical harm or trafficking. East of the Anacostia River, including in Fairlawn, where I live, legalization will mean a complex problem becomes unsolvable.

The men whom prostitutes wave down on the street are just as likely as not to pay with drugs and have firearms or other weapons. Prostitutes flagrantly solicit clients in an area full of children at all hours of the day. The sex is not a moral issue for me; it is the consequences: armed, drug-dealing men; women being beaten in broad daylight; children witnessing violence and exploitation; condoms and drug paraphernalia litter. Legalization would take away the only tool the police have to make Ward 7 and 8 neighborhoods safer.

A more thoughtful approach is needed, perhaps prohibiting discrimination against sex workers or providing dedicated services and health care without reporting them to police. The solution must take into account the danger prostitution brings to communities, particularly east of the river.

David O'Leary, Washington

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