Amnesty International has released a new report highlighting the routine use of rape, violence and torture by police to punish women sex workers in the Dominican Republic. The report - ‘If they can have her, why can’t we?’ - uses testimony from 46 Dominican cisgender and transgender women sex workers, and reports them suffering various forms of violence at the hands of police. Amnesty attributes this partly to the criminalisation of sex work, saying "the criminalized status of sex workers combined with profound machismo, fuels arbitrary detentions by police and enables these grave human rights violations, with impunity".
Amnesty reports that violence against women is prevalent in the Dominican Republic and across the Caribbean, and that "women sex workers at particular risk from state officials and other individuals". In 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office in the Dominican Republic received 71,000 reports of gender-based and intra-family violence, and more than 6,300 reports of sexual offenses, including 1,290 reports of rape. The country has high rates of femicide against both cis and trans women; more than 100 cases were in 2017, one of the highest rates in the region, and Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA) also reported that 47 trans women have been killed since 2006.
Amnesty has called on the Dominican President to publicly condemn the use of rape and other gender-based torture by the police, and for the country to develop a protocol for investigations into these cases. They call on Parliament to "repeal existing laws and refrain from introducing new laws that criminalize or penalize directly or in practice the consensual exchange of sexual services between adults for remuneration" and "ensure the meaningful participation of sex workers, including those who face multiple forms of discrimination – such as women living with HIV, transgender women, and older sex workers – in the development of laws, policies and programs, that protect them from discrimination that fuels human rights violations".
"By passing a law to prevent discrimination against some of the country’s most marginalized women, the Dominican Republic could set an example for the rest of the Caribbean to follow in the fight against stigma, machismo, and other drivers of extreme violence against women."