A Brazillian sex worker has been forced to go into hiding after publically speaking out against police actions following an illegal raid in Niteroi, Brazil in May of this year.
On 23 May 2014 police occupied a building in the centre of Niteroi where sex workers live and work. The building had known sex work venues for about 400 self-organised sex workers. Some sex workers were residents and lost their homes after the illegal raid.
Sex work is not a crime under Brazilian law, as it is a profession recognised by the Ministry of Labour since 2002, as such the raid was justified by basing it on the “bad structural conditions and conservation of the installations” of the building. However, the police only closed the four floors where sex workers lived and worked, leaving the remaining six floors undisturbed,
One report from Brazil recounts the disturbing events: “During the operation, several victims had guns held against their heads, there were assaults and even rapes, theft of personal belongings and money, intimidation, and approximately 100 women and three men were forcibly transported by buses to the 76th District police precinct. There, the women were held for hours, witnessing the continuous arrival of many others – who entered the precinct in single file, wrapped in blankets – until they begin to be released from 5 pm onwards. Two of the women, Bruna and Preta, were locked up in cells, while others chanted “racist, racist” at the police.”
"Isabel" was one of the 400 sex workers living and working in a building that was illegally raided by the civil police in May 2014 in the city of Niteroi - a city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. She, like several others, was raped, robbed and lost both her place of work and home due to the raid, and subsequent, and also illegal, condemning of the floors where prostitution occurred in the building. Following an outcry, apublic hearing was held in Rio de Janeiro at the state legislature on June 4th where sex workers from Niteroi testified about the rights violations and abuses committed by the police during the raid.
After publically denouncing the police violence and illegal action at the public hearing held in Rio de Janeiro, she was kidnapped and threatened that if she didn`t stop talking publically about what happened, both she and her family would suffer the consequences. She left Niteroi with only the clothes on her back and is in short term emergency housing and relying on the support of a network of activists. All of the government programs that have offered her protection and assistance require her to be silent and stop her activism - something she refuses to do. She is a member of Davida, and Amnesty International has gotten involved requesting Urgent Action as has Frontline Defenders , and Urgent Action Fund, yet she continues to have extremely limited funds to cover housing and living costs of her family and three children who were dependent on her.
Requests by Isabel to receive protective measures have been refused and she remains in danger due to continued threats to her own safety and the harassment of her family. A campaign to help raise emergency funds for Isabel has been set up here.