Since our founding in 1991, WWAV has been standing with the women of New Orleans no questions asked. We’ve been let into worlds that few others see, and trusted with stories that traditional public health workers rarely, if ever, hear.
But little could have prepared us for that day when ‘J’ arrived at one of our Our Space events. Barely saying hello, she pulled out her photo I.D. card, which read ‘SEX OFFENDER’ in block red letters. She is only 23 years old, and one month clean from a heroin addiction; the ‘sex offender’ label will remain on her ID until she turns 48. Within a week of talking with ‘J’, we saw another one of our women who told us through tears that she was just forced to register as a sex offender based on 10 year old charges. Her entrapment in the system now won’t end until 2024, when the ‘sex offender’ label is lifted.
Stories like these are what drive WWAV’s holistic approach to harm reduction, social justice and self-care. And we know stories like these cut to the heart of your work, as well. This strategy for criminalizing certain types of sex work has emerged within a climate of persistent lack of access to culturally competent services, gender-based violence, and a lack of respect of health through harm reduction, all which make our communities vulnerable to HIV and other preventable communicable infections.
This law brands and stigmatizes our community members as sexual predators, a modern version of a “Scarlett Letter,” making it virtually impossible for us to recognize our goals, dreams, and desires, even after we have paid our debt to society. That is why our women are calling this project ‘NO Justice.’ And it is their words that we use as our organizing advocacy call moving forward.
To learn more about the NO Justice Project, please go to: