Women With a Vision

Why Are So Many Black Women Being Forced to Register as Sex Offenders?

February 17, 2011

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, in Louisiana's Orleans Parish "seventy-five percent of the people registered as sex offenders for solicitation of a crime against nature (SCAN) conviction are women, and 80 percent of them are African American." What's SCAN, and why is it putting so many Black women on the sex offender registry? Louisiana's SCAN statute increases existing penalties on soliciting oral or anal sex in exchange for money, and classifies them as a serious sex crime. As a result, a SCAN conviction forces women to register as sex offenders, putting those women at risk for the loss of their jobs, children, and homes, as well as other forms of harassment and violence. Additionally, the people most likely to be charged under the SCAN statute are women engaged in survival sex and street economies -- low income women, women of color, and transgender women. Women With A Vision, the New Orleans based advocates for women's reproductive and sexual health and justice and a recent Third Wave grant partner, have been working to educate the public about the effects of SCAN on their communities:

"Since our founding in 1991, Women With A Vision 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." - Women With A Vision, "No Justice"
This week, supported by Women With A Vision and their "No Justice" campaign, the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a Federal civil rights suit challenging the constitutionality of the SCAN statute. Women With A Vision's executive director, Deon Haywood, said in support of this suit:
“I work with the people directly affected by this statute every day: the toll it takes is devastating. Many of these women are survivors of rape and domestic violence themselves, many have struggled with addiction and poverty, yet they are being treated as predators.What this law does is completely disconnect them from our community and from what remains of a social safety net, making it impossible for them to recognize and develop their goals and dreams.”
We'll be following the developments in this case closely and letting you know ways you can support Women With A Vision to protect the rights and freedom of low-income women, women of color, and transgender women. Their policy brief "Just A Talking Crime" was released this week.

Posted in: Blog, Criminalization, Women With a Vision

Women With A Vision Win Rights for Women of Color Convicted of “Crimes Against Nature” in Lousiana

June 22, 2011

Deon Haywood, WWAV's Executive Director, with Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Davida Finger of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic of Loyola University New Orleans College of LawWomen With a Vision, a Third Wave grant partner, have been working in Louisiana to end the extreme penalties faced by women of color who are targeted for arrest under a 200 year old anti-prostitution statute, Solicitation of a Crime Against Nature (SCAN). Louisiana’s SCAN statute increases existing penalties on soliciting oral or anal sex in exchange for money, and classifies them as a serious sex crime. As a result, a SCAN conviction forces women to register as sex offenders, putting those women at risk for the loss of their jobs, children, and homes, as well as other forms of harassment and violence. Additionally, the people most likely to be charged under the SCAN statute are women engaged in survival sex and street economies — low income women, women of color, and transgender women. As a result, seventy-five percent of the people registered as sex offenders for solicitation of a crime against nature (SCAN) conviction are women, and 80 percent of them are African American. This June, after two years of education and community mobilizing led by Women With a Vision, the Louisiana Senate voted unanimously to remove Solicitation of a Crime Against Nature (SCAN) from the sex offender registry. The bill also passed the House, with just three dissenting votes. Women With a Vision's next step?

Next stop is the governor’s office! We will be leaning on all of our local and national allies to ensure that Governor Jindal follows the House and Senate’s lead in signing this important step towards healing and justice for the women of Louisiana into law... For now, please help us spread the word. This is an incredible day for the women of Louisiana and all who are joined in our collective struggles for reproductive and transformative justice!

Posted in: Women With a Vision