Friday, March 30, 2012

OUR WIN – Letter from Women With A Vision Executive Director, Deon Haywood

Yesterday, US District Judge Martin Feldman ruled that the Louisiana law that required sex workers to register as sex offenders is unconstitutional. Lawmakers had already changed the law last year, but this ruling is expected to help remove from the registry hundreds of women (and some men) who remain on the registry because of past convictions.
Dear friends and allies,

There are few times in our work when are truly brought to the point of being speechless. For all of us at Women With A Vision, today is one of those days. Today, we celebrate with the women and men who courageously stood up to combat the criminalization of their lives – and won. Today, we celebrate a victory for all people who have told their truths that justice might be done. WWAV has always just been a catalyst for women affected by this.

So many times, people tried to tell us not to do it. They didn’t believe that poor, uneducated women could win a victory on this scale. They didn’t think that our women were important enough, or that they had the ability to change their own lives. Let this be an example of people standing together through grassroots organizing to change their lives. We didn’t back down even when we lacked the funding to do this. We did not back down when person after person said that they were unsure about standing by us. We knew what we were doing was right. We did not waver. We did not compromise what needed to happen. We just stayed the course and fought the fight.

At a time in this country right now when we feel like justice is not on the side of the people, the people most affected spoke their truths – not some abstract ‘speak truth to power,’ but their truths from their hearts – and that is what made the difference.

This was not a legal fight or a legislative fight. This was a fight for women’s lives and well-being. This was a fight, simply put, about everything. This was about the freedom of people to make choices for themselves. This was about public health. This was about sex worker rights. This was about human rights. This was and is about everything. Which is why we cannot pick apart injustice. We can’t decide that something is wrong for one group and right for another. We can’t decide we don’t like this law for women, but it’s okay for gay people or trans people.

Especially in the South, most people feel like we come in last. But this is where the Civil Rights Movement started. And today it continues in the South.

We have seen too often that the way problems are solved in Louisiana is through incarceration. But over-incarceration is not going to solve things. It’s not going to make our communities safer. It’s not going to make our communities better. The issue here is poverty. Over-incarceration is not going to solve that.

For once, women and men won. And we believe that this is not just a win for us. This is a win for every group that has ever been criminalized. Our win today proves that when we stand with folks who have been wrongly charged, we can make a difference.

With this win, the women of NO Justice can begin to heal. With this win, we can begin to renew and rebuild our lives.

And the struggle continues,

The women we stand with, Deon Haywood, the staff of WWAV, and our Board of Directors

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