Councilmember David Grosso's new bill would decriminalize prostitution by removing all criminal penalties for prostitutes or their clients in the District of Columbia.
Ronald Reagan famously joked that while some people call politicians the world's second-oldest profession, they oftentimes more resembled the world's oldest. Today in Washington, D.C., both are teaming up to try to decriminalize prostitution.
While the D.C. City Council has a number of high priority tasks on its agenda, Councilmember David Grosso (shown above) believes that reforming the District's prostitution laws should be one of them. That is why he is pushing for his colleagues to get behind a bill that would decriminalize prostitution in Washington, D.C.
We basically criminalize too many activities,” Grosso declared in a news conference announcing the new legislation. “It is time for the District of Columbia to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex work, and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health and safety.
“By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them lead safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or other nuisances.”
Councilmember Grosso claims that his new bill is actually quite simple. To decriminalize prostitution, all it would take is removing any criminal punishment for adults who exchange consensual sex for money or other things of value.
The move, however, represents a radical departure from how the District of Columbia's City Council dealt with prostitution as recently as five years ago. Back in 2012, councilmembers debated a bill that would have created "prostitution-free zones" after neighborhoods complained about a spike in noticeable solicitations on the street. Ultimately that resolution failed because councilmembers and advocacy groups feared it could be unconstitutional to ban prostitution.
David Grosso is no stranger to the media attention and has sponsored a number of bills that have turned heads. Long a proponent of looser drug laws, Grosso proposed a program over the summer that would have targeted the opioid epidemic by designating special areas where drug addicts can safely shoot up.
Unlike other areas of the country, Washington, D.C., is not a state. In order for any bill to become law, Congress must first sign off on any new legislation they pass. Because of that, it is unlikely that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would ever get on board with legalizing prostitution. While it would be a temporary fix, the City Council could temporarily pass an emergency bill decriminalizing prostitution. That would give them 90 days to collect data on the effects of the emergency legislation before they would have to get Congress's approval to make the change permanent.
Most experts agree that prostitution in the District has been on the decline for decades. However, with the topic of child abductions re-entering the headlines this year, more attention has been given to Washington, D.C.'s sex trade. Grosso also believes that his bill would help go after human traffickers operating in and around Washington, D.C.
"Sex workers themselves are often some of the best-positioned people to identify and help people in situations of exploitation. By removing the criminal sanctions on them, we can improve our efforts to address coercion and trafficking," Grosso explained.
What do you think? Would it be a good idea for Washington, D.C., to legalize prostitution? Let us know in the comment section below!