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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 4, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 40
Over 70 LGBTQ and allied organizations call on the DC Council to support the decriminalization of sex work
Section One
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Over 70 LGBTQ and allied organizations call on the DC Council to support the decriminalization of sex work

SAN FRANCISCO (October 2, 2019) - Today, LGBTQ advocates hand-delivered a letter signed by over 70 local, state, and national LGBTQ and allied organizations to members of the Council of the District of Columbia in support of the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 (B23-0318), which would remove criminal penalties from the buying and selling of sex in DC while maintaining existing laws on sex trafficking. It would also create a task force to monitor the implementation and effects of the act.

The letter explains that the current law 'serves no valid purpose and is dramatically out of step with current research and knowledge, including about how best to combat the transmission of HIV.' As a result, by removing it, 'the bill would improve safety, public health, and law enforcement's ability to address both violent and property crimes.'

The letter states that passing this bill would be 'critical to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ community, including by improving public health and decreasing the vulnerability of marginalized sex workers, particularly transgender women of color.'

On Thursday, October 17, the DC Council Judiciary Committee will hold a historic hearing on the act.

Tyrone Hanley, senior policy counsel at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) said, 'Discrimination in employment, education, and housing against LGBTQ people, and especially transgender women of color, leads to increased participation in sex work by LGBTQ people. Criminalizing sex work punishes people for their survival, threatens their health and well-being, and exacerbates poverty. Rather than investing in more policing, DC would be better served by investing in our communities.'

Naseema Shafi, Whitman-Walker Health CEO, said, 'The criminalization of commercial sex between consenting adults creates barriers to health and wellness for many members of our community. The District of Columbia should do everything in its power to increase access to health, justice, and dignity, for all its residents.'

Puneet Cheema, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, said, 'Criminalizing adults engaging in consensual sex work, often for survival, impedes sex workers' access to health care services, puts them at risk of physical abuse from clients and police, and increases their vulnerability to exploitation by third parties. The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 is urgently needed to remove this brutal and outdated penalty for consensual sex work. Sex workers need resources, not criminal penalties.'

Richard Rosendall, former GLAA president, said, 'We as a society cannot reasonably criminalize a choice that our discrimination has led many trans women to make. Decriminalization is but one needed step if our purpose is to help them, instead of merely putting them out of sight. Better job training and employment opportunities are further steps.'

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org

Whitman-Walker Health is a federal qualified health center (FQHC) that offers affirming community-based health and wellness services to all, with a special expertise in LGBTQ and HIV care. It empowers all persons to live healthy, love openly, and achieve equality and inclusion. It strives to be a place that sees the person first, a healthcare home where people are treated with the dignity, respect, and love.

Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.

Founded in 1971, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington DC (GLAA) is an all-volunteer, nonpartisan, nonprofit political organization that defends the safety, health, and civil rights of sexual and gender minorities, including LGBTQ people, in the nation's capital.

Courtesy of the NCLR

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