Statement from NOW President Toni Van Pelt:
Washington, D.C. – The Council of the District of Columbia-Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety- is considering a bill that would decriminalize those who buy and profit from the purchase of sex acts in the District. If passed into law, this bill will provide blanket approval for the exploitative and violent activities of those who control and profit from prostituted persons.
NOW has long supported removing criminal penalties that are applied to sexually exploited persons and expunging their criminal records. They are the ones who are victimized and violated. It is the buyers of sexual acts: pimps, traffickers, hotel and motel proprietors and brothel owners who must be charged with crimes and put out of business.
This bill, the misnamed “Community Safety and Health Amendment Act,” would entice and embolden a criminal industry and bring it into the family of social acceptance, while collecting substantial amounts in taxes. But prostitution is a system of sexual exploitation, not “sex work.”
Many prostituted persons, especially young women of color, and transwomen, are coerced into the sex trade due to difficult economic circumstances, homelessness, physical or sexual abuse, emotional trauma, coercion and abduction. No one chooses it as a profession over other career paths.
If this bill passes, Washington, D.C. would become the sex tourism capital of the world. We need protections and support for the people who are being prostituted—not subsidies for new industries based on the exploitation of women.
NOW supports legislation that would decriminalize people who are prostituted and provide programs that would help them to successfully exit the trade and access counseling, health care, housing, training and employment. This approach is known as The Equality/Nordic Model, successfully adopted by Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and France.
But the bill before the Council is based on inequality, profits and patriarchy. That is why the National Organization for Women is testifying against it today.
Under this legislation, D.C. would see the overnight growth of a multi-billion–dollar sex tourist industry, complete with celebrity-branded chains of brothels and organized crime. This must not happen. Instead, we must decriminalize prostituted people and enforce prohibitions against the exploitative purchasers of sexual acts.
Kimberly Hayes, Press Secretary, email@example.com, 202-570-4745