Washington Post: D.C.’s bill to decriminalize prostitution would hurt the people it aims to help

Below is an excerpt from the article published in the Washington Post recognizing the harms of fully decriminalizing prostitution. Learn more here.

DECRIMINALING PROSTITUTION has become a priority for the progressive movement, and the movement is slowly picking up steam across the country. That it seems to have found a receptive audience with the D.C. Council is not a big surprise, given how lawmakers pride themselves on boldly being at the forefront of liberal causes. But council members would do well to look beyond the progressive label that has been attached to decriminalization. They instead need to heed the warnings from those who actually work with women in the sex trade that a proposal to fully decriminalize prostitution in the District will end up hurting the very people it aims to help.

A bill before the council would eliminate criminal penalties for those who engage in sexual activity in exchange for money…

Proponents frame the issue along feminist and labor lines — that sex between consenting adults should not be treated as a crime and that bringing people out of the shadows will mean better protections. “We have to be making sure we’re looking after our constituents,” said council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1). “Those who engage in sex work are our constituents.”

What’s wrong with that view is that it buys into the myth of prostitution as a victimless crime, glossing over the harsh realities — abuse from clients and pimps, commonplace drug use, psychological and physical trauma — of sex work. Most women don’t choose prostitution as a profession, and many would quit if given the chance. Indeed, the fact that many prostitutes were lured or forced into the sex industry as children is one reason many advocates for sex-trafficked and abused women have come out against the proposed legislation.

Giving legal immunity to the men who buy sex or profit from it will, they fear, create a demand that will lead to more young girls and women forced into the sex trade. They point to the experience of countries, such as Germany, in which prostitution was legalized but the problems and abuses have worsened. …


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NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


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