Tag Archive: Prostitution

According to the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report (2010), there are approximately 14,500 to 17,500 people trafficked to America each year. The vast majority of these people are women and children. In October of 2000, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7101) was passed in order to “combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude, to reauthorize certain Federal programs to prevent violence against women, and for other purposes.”

The cold truth is that these people are treated as mere commodities and traded or used in whatever fashion their captors can make the most money. This often means working in the sex industry in “professions” such as prostitution,  mail order marriage, or sex workers. Another common “profession” for these women is forced laborers in various industries, which often results in labor, health, and human rights violations. Often these women’s only offense is the desire for a better life. Traffickers target poverty-stricken and uneducated women by coercing them with the promise of work in America as maids or nannies.  As these women are virtually cut off from their families, friends and home, they have no way out of this modern-day slavery. Children are also targeted for these reasons but they also face another threat: adoption. The underground adoption markets consists of  people who want to adopt but are unwilling to undergo legitimate adoptive programs. The children are often stolen or coerced from their families and homes and brought to America being sold to adoptive families. According to the United Nations,  Mexico is the number one “supply center” for children brought to the United States for this purpose.

The Criminalization of Sex Work: Are Sex Workers Also Sex Offenders?

In New Orleans,  prostitutes (also known as sex workers, a term that encompasses various forms of sexual favors or acts traded for money, shelter, or other resources/necessities) are not just being charged by the District Attorney’s office with simple solicitation (a misdemeanor) but crimes against nature. Crimes against Nature is a felony charge that provides up to five years in prison, in addition the legislature mandates that the accused register as a sex offender. The legislative intent was to prosecute child molesters, but it is used to prosecute primarily street-based sex workers, a population already destitute and struggling to survive in a city with few public health and anti-poverty resources. The local Police Department and District Attorney’s office have interpreted the statutory phrase “unnatural copulation” to mean anal or oral sex.

What is really interesting is that the arresting officer has the discretion to charge either simple solicitation or crimes against nature and it unclear whether the officers have a protocol for which to charge. One community organization that advocates for the health and wellness needs of under-served women, Women with a Vision, sees these arbitrary prosecutions as part of an overall scheme to prosecute non-violent crimes at a greater intensity than violent crimes, which they see as symptomatic of the criminalization of poverty. Another community organization that advocates for formerly incarcerated persons alleges that only five percent of people held in Orleans Parish Prison are there for violent crimes, but a majority are in there for non-violent offenses, like traffic or municipal violations.

Many lawyers and the media, print and online,  have found out what is happening in New Orleans and are doing all they can to change the interpretation of this statute, as well as support community organizations trying to change its enforcement and the lives of those most affected by it. Yet, despite of these ongoing efforts, people are still prosecuted under the crimes against nature statute. Hopefully, this will make us think twice when we read about a “Sex Offender” in our neighborhood.

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