Skip to main content.
February 4th, 2010

Sex Workers Charged As Sex Offenders

From SWOP, LV:
Her crime? Sex work in New Orleans
“Tabitha has been working as a prostitute in New Orleans since she was 13. Now 30 years old, she can often be found working on a corner just outside of the French Quarter. A small and slight white woman, she has battled both drug addiction and illness and struggles every day to find a meal or a place to stay for the night.

These days, Tabitha, who asked that her real name not be used in this story, has yet another burden: a stamp printed on her driver’s license labels her a sex offender. Her crime? Sex work.

New Orleans city police and the district attorney’s office are using a state law written for child molesters to charge hundreds of sex workers like Tabitha as sex offenders. The law, which dates back to 1805, makes it a crime against nature to engage in “unnatural copulation”-a term New Orleans cops and the district attorney’s office have interpreted to mean anal or oral sex. Sex workers convicted of breaking this law are charged with felonies, issued longer jail sentences and forced to register as sex offenders. They must also carry a driver’s license with the label “sex offender” printed on it.


Advocates and former defendants claim that the decision over who is charged under which penalty is made arbitrarily, at the discretion of police and the district attorney’s office, and that the law disproportionately affects Black people, as well as transgender women.


Advocates have said the ideal solution would be to get state lawmakers to change the law, but they feel there’s little hope of positive reforms from the current legislature. For now, organizers want to put pressure on police and the district attorney’s office to stop charging sex workers under the crime against nature statute.”

I’m feeling so many layers of outrage here I don’t even know where to begin. An antiquated law against “unnatural copulation” shouldn’t even be on the books. These sex workers should not be charged as sex offenders. Plus it’s an invasion of privacy to put the “sex offender” status on a person’s license. But politicians like to look tough on crime and punishing “evil sex offenders” certainly stirs up votes come election time.

Posted by Vixen as News, Sex Workers at 10:19 PM CST

No Comments »