This report presents the findings of the Study on Situations of Institutional Violence Towards and Rights Violations of Women Sex Workers conducted by Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (Latin American and Caribbean Women Sex Workers’ Network, RedTraSex) during 2015 and 2016.
Even though autonomous sex work is not explicitly prohibited in any of the RedTraSex member countries, there are no clear regulations recognizing it as work with its subsequent rights and obligations. However, all these countries have dispositions and laws criminalizing different actions related to sex work. This creates the conditions for police repression and institutional violence against us, as well as difficulties for us to access basic health and justice services.
The purpose of this research is to analyse how these laws and dispositions address a set of situations related to sex work, and to make room for the voices of women sex workers themselves so that they can describe their daily experiences of stigma and discrimination as women and as women sex workers. In this report, women sex workers working in the street and other open spaces as well as those working indoors describe the multiple situations in which they suffer physical, emotional and sexual violence. The experiences of continual coercion and extortion under which they work include illegal arrests, deplorable labour conditions, and abuse in the workplace.
Women sex workers also describe their experiences with different officials in the judicial system who, instead of enabling them to access justice when their rights are violated or when they are subjected to gender-based violence or face child-custody challenges, reinforce discrimination by protecting law-enforcement personnel and discouraging and hindering the advancement of legal procedures, subjecting women sex workers to further violence.
Women sex workers of legal age who decide on our own to engage in this occupation, feel that we are a part of the working class. The State must guarantee us the same rights as other workers. This is why we consider it crucial that members of Parliament and other public officials learn about the situations of institutional violence that we face as a direct result of the lack of clear regulations and legal protections for our work. Based on this knowledge, they can jointly develop with us the necessary actions to overcome this injustice, discrimination and exclusion.
The stories in these pages will tell you about the harsh realities in which our work is done. They are the reason for our tireless struggle for better work conditions; the only way to achieve it is through the legal recognition of our rights. WE ARE NOT THE PROBLEM, WE ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION.
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