They’re trying to stand up to a supposed ‘justice system’ in a situation where it is all too possible that the very officer they have to report the crime to is the one who committed the crime in the first place. Even without this possibility, the nature of their occupation means that they are often treated as though they were ‘asking for’ rape, shifting the blame onto the victim, rather than holding the criminal accountable.
Their findings show that women sex workers are targeted so frequently because they have been demonised by society and are seen as ‘immoral’ and ‘unnatural’. Although prostitution itself is not illegal in the Dominican Republic, various related aspects are, such as brothels or pimping, which means that sex workers in general are denigrated in the eyes of their society and likely to be arrested anyway. It is often in situations of arrest and questioning that violence takes place.
Whilst the Amnesty campaign focuses specifically on the Dominican Republic, it highlights an issue of under-representation that is applicable the world over. It taught me a lot, and it is a lesson worth learning. The voices of sex workers remain silenced globally. Amnesty highlighted in its 2019 report that ‘the subject of selling sex provokes intense debate. Too often in the back-and-forth between people on both sides of the discussion, women sex workers themselves are sidelined and denied agency.’ We must shift the conversation, and give the floor to them. We must stop speaking over sex workers.
We need to place the voices and personal stories of these women themselves at the core of any discussion concerning sex work. We need to listen to their ideas on what can bring about lasting and effectual change. Statistics are important when investigating the figures behind any human issue, but I don’t believe that they are as powerful at instilling compassion and thus sparking action and change as real human stories. Stories directly oppose the dehumanisation that mere numbers can often provoke.