Support sex worker activist Isabel fight violence

Emergency funds for Isabel, a Brazilian sex worker who is in hiding since testifying against police.
Laura Murray
Rio de Janeiro
2 Team Members

[Para doações em reais veja a campanha em português]

This campaign is to raise emergency funds for Isabel, a Brazilian sex worker who has been in hiding since she spoke out against horrific rights violations committed by the police in one of the most violent police raids on prostitution in decades.

Who is organizing this campaign?

Brazilian sex worker rights organization Davida along with the Observatory of Prostitution and Justiça Global are joining together to raise emergency funds for Isabel to survive in safety, support herself and her family from afar, and continue her activism denouncing gross human rights violations.

This emergency support will is to cover the time period until the legal processes bear out and the non-profits working with Isabel can arrange longer term aid and projects to support her activism.

What will your support do?

It will support Isabel and her family through this critical and emergency time in which they have no resources. It will provide her with security and structure at this critical time to continue her activism.  

One of Isabel’s primary goals is the creation of public policies to protect sex workers who denounce police violence. At the presence, there are no such policies or protections in place.

In the shadows of the World Cup

Isabel is one of over 100 sex workers who was illegally arrested by police in the Brazilian city of Niteroi on May 23, when police from 13 police stations throughout Rio de Janeiro illegally entered the building she lived and worked in without warrants, broke down doors, beat and raped sex workers, and illegally detained them for statements.

“It was all men — there were no female police officers,” Isabel said from hiding. “When I started to ask them questions about what they were doing, I got hit in the face, they pulled my hair and put me back in my room. Then two police came back, and that’s when they raped me.”

It is important to note that prostitution is legal in Brazil and recognized profession by the Ministry of Labor. The complete illegality of the police action, and moral, rather than legal basis, has been publicly affirmed by the Public Defender Clara Prazeres who is representing the case.

Isabel is the only victim of the May 23 raid who has testified in public about the human rights violations she and her colleagues suffered. Shortly after she spoke in a public hearing, she was kidnapped by four men who cut her with a razor, took her ID, showed her pictures they took of her son, and told her to stay quiet or lose her life. Since then Isabel has been in hiding and unable to work to provide for herself and her family. 

“I want to go back to work but nowhere I could work would be safe,” Isabel said from hiding. “Not even the street is safe — that’s where I got kidnapped.”

According to the Observatory of Prostitution/UFRJ, an extention project of Rio de Janeiro's Federal University documenting the conditions of sex workers during World Cup, what happened in Niterói is one of the most egregious violations of human rights to occur in prostitution contexts before, and during, the World Cup.

Fighting attempts at silencing and demobilizing

Yet in the search through government programs for victims of violence, they have found a complete absence of policies and actions to protect sex workers in Isabel`s situation.

In appeals for support, Isabel has been advised to discontinue her activism - something she refuses to do. As the primary spokesperson denouncing rights violations of the 23rd, and now, the lack of government support for sex workers who denounce violence, stopping her fight could mean the ending possibilities for justice for Isabel and her colleagues, and more longer term change in terms of creating programs and policies that protect sex workers who denounce violence.

Who is part of this fight?

Sex worker rights NGO Davida and Rio’s Observatory of Prostitution have been accompanying her case since the beginning, making public statements against the violence, organizing protests, mobilizing political support and now organizing emergency donations. 

Federal Deputy Jean Wyllys’ office has been accompanying the case since April, participating in protests, mobilizing broader political support, and connecting the violations to need for broader legal reform in Brazil’s penal code which still criminalizes aspects of prostitution. 

The Human Rights Commission of the State Legislature of Rio de Janeiro organized the public hearing in which Isabel denounced police violence in June and has advocated on behalf of the  victims of the May 23rd police raid. 

The Public Defenders Office of the Rio de Janeiro is representing Isabel and her colleagues in the case against police violence and illegality of the police operation and the Coletivo de Advogados de Rio de Janeiro (Lawyer’s Collective of Rio de Janeiro) is proving legal support. 

Frontline Defenders has provided emergency support for short-term safe housing and Justiça Global is mobilizing resources and advocating on behalf of Isabel to enter into a federal government protection program for human rights defenders. Amnesty International has launched an urgent action campaign

Rattapallax supports the documentary project, A Kiss for Gabriela, that has documented the Niterói case through the film's blogs in Portuguese and English. 

raised in 1 month
71% funded
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Verified Nonprofit
$5,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on August 30, 2014
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