Councilmember Allen -
Criminalization is one of the primary sources of violence against Black women and women of color, specifically transgender and gender non-conforming people of color. It increases women and girls’ susceptibility to being shuttled through prisons and experiencing abuse at the hands of police and corrections officers.
The District has one of the highest number of Trans residents per capita, yet the Trans unemployment rate is estimated to be around 50%. According to the DC Trans Needs Assessment Report from 2015 - which to date, the largest city-based, Trans-specific needs assessment in US history, with survey responses from over 500 participants - over a third of Trans respondents reported having engaged in sex work with half being Trans women and Trans feminine people of color and nearly 75% of which were more likely to be HIV positive.
Over 41% of respondents who reported engaging in sex work felt it was their only option for income. The report details how lack of access to housing and stable employment forces Black and Brown Trans communities in particular to receive income "through underground or grey economy work."
As these forces push Trans and gender nonconforming people into underground economies, the District’s policy of criminalization makes this dangerous work, contributing to the devastatingly short life expectancies of Trans Women of color. D.C.'s sex work criminalization policies have failed to deter violence and improve public safety. They have instead made it more difficult for sex workers to seek safety due to the significant risk of arrest instead of protection and have lead to the deportation of documented and undocumented Trans and Queer immigrants, many who are escaping violence from their home countries and working to build better lives.
As chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, we urge you to bring the “Promoting Public Safety and Health by Reducing Criminalization Amendment Act of 2017” to a hearing and facilitate formal community dialogue about efforts to decriminalize sex work in the District.
* This bill will remove the criminal penalties associated with sex exchange, maintain existing laws on sex trafficking, and establish a task force to evaluate the impact.
This petition is a collaborative effort by BYP100 DC, Collective Action for Safe Space, HIPS DC, UndocuBlack, No Justice No Pride (NJNP), and the Sex Workers Advocates Coalition to end the criminalization of sex workers in DC.
As former and current sex workers, we are deeply committed to ending all forms of violence against Trans and Gender Non Conforming people of color in D.C. — NJNP - Trans Justice