DC council member, activists push to decriminalize sex trade

Could the District become the capital of the legal sex trade? A councilman - holding a rally - says he'll introduce a bill to de-criminalize sex workers.

It's an issue that's gaining traction in cities beyond the District as well.

Supporters say this isn't "legalized prostitution" - but they want to remove criminal penalties for self-described "adult sex workers."

D.C. Councilman David Grosso - who tried and failed in pushing this bill before - rallied at the Wilson Building on Monday with the "Sex Worker Advocates Coalition." They argue that, much like legalized marijuana, attitudes and laws need to change.

"It's long for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex and move from criminalization to a new approach," Grosso said.

One activist echoed the councilman's statement.

"As a survivor, I'm tired of hearing about trans women of color being murdered while doing sex work. The time to act is now! Enough is enough," said Laya Monarez, a former sex worker and activist

Grosso's bill would repeal all D.C. laws that have criminal penalties for commercial sex work between consenting adults.

It covers both sex workers and customers.

Congress also has a say in this - and could block the bill if it ever gets approved.

Grosso says his bill keeps laws making it illegal to engage in human trafficking, or to force or coerce someone to engage in sex work against their will.

Despite the activists' stance, some residents of the District are reluctant to give the green light to legalized sex trade.

Grosso has three co-sponsors for the bill on the council, but it's far from a done deal.

A similar bill failed in 2017. Councilman Charles Allen - Chairman of the Justice and Public Safety Committee - says he doesn't think they'd take the bill up until the fall. And he has a lot of questions about it.