Friday, November 5, 2010

Sex Worker Advocates Highlight New Orleans Human Rights Violations at United Nations

From our friends at Women With A Vision:
United States Human Rights Record Examined in Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland- Sex workers and their allies are among the U.S.-based human rights advocates lobbying the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, as the U.S. government submits its record as part of the Universal Periodic Review Process. Among the violations the advocates hope the Council will address include: the registration of sex workers as sex offenders in New Orleans, and rampant violence and extortion committed by police officers against sex workers and those police perceive as such. The violations are listed in a report created in preparation for these meetings with the extensive participation from across the U.S. of individuals and organizations run by and/or for sex workers and people who do sexual exchange.

The report also describes debilitating criminalization, the particular targeting of transgender people and people of color in the policing of sex work, and a lack of access to health care and other services. “In the US sex workers are often viewed as criminals who deserve punishment or whatever else comes their way—but if we can affirm their humanity in an international human rights arena, our efforts for change will have greater traction within the United States,” explains Penelope Saunders, of Best Practices Policy Project.

Advocates in New Orleans hope to draw particular attention to the impacts of NOPD’s and the local district attorney’s office’s use of a centuries-old “Crimes Against Nature” law to charge people arrested for sex work with felonies, and force them to register as sex offenders. The result of this persecution is that over half of those registered as sex offenders in New Orleans are people arrested for sex work and charged with a crime against nature, and of those, 78% are African American and almost all are women and transgender women.

In an interview earlier this year, Deon Haywood, director of New Orleans-based Women With A Vision told a reporter, “This law completely disconnects our community members from what remains of a social safety net.” Women With a Vision promotes wellness and disease prevention for women who live in poverty.

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