BUENOS AIRES – Under the banner “Sex trade is work,” Argentine prostitutes handed out symbolic invoices with prices for their sexual services in front of the Buenos Aires City Legislature, in an unusual campaign for a law to recognize their rights as workers.
Health care, access to education, the right to freely practice their trade, trade union organization and the possibility of retirement benefits, basic rights that any other work would provide, are a dream for these women.
Argentina does not regard prostitution as a legal activity, but does not ban it either, which is why around 80,000 prostitutes remain marginalized by public policy and face risks including fear of losing their homes, extortion and police persecution.
Some pay as much as three times the normal rent for homes, as they cannot show salary slips for their income, but even this does not guarantee their security indoors.
The police, if not extorting bribes, harass them and occasionally launch violent operations to shut down brothels, Georgina Orellano, head of Association of Women Prostitutes of Argentina (AMMAR), told Efe.
“Women endure thefts which many refrain from reporting because of the stigma of their work, as their families often do not know they are actually sex workers,” she added.
Her organization, which supports around 6,000 prostitutes from 10 provinces of the country, has been fighting for the rights of sex workers for 20 years.
The latest salvo in the struggle is a peculiar campaign for legal recognition of their work.
The campaign revolves around the distribution of invoices showing symbolic prices for their services, for example, around 400 pesos ($41) for a “traditional” service and 500 pesos for ($56) for “full” service.
The campaign has generated public interest on social networking sites, where users have created their own versions of the invoices, adding fantasies, and services for lesbians and couples.
“We are seeking the regulation of autonomous sex work, we want registration, like any other self-employed worker in the country,” Orellano said.
The prostitutes are trying to raise awareness among “opinion leaders” and “remove the great stigma” towards them and their work.
Politicians, legislators and journalists who support the campaign have attached their images to the symbolic invoices and forwarded them to AMMAR.
A bill to regularize prostitution rests with the Argentine Senate, but may not be considered this year.
However, Orellano believes that a similar bill may meet with more success in the Chamber of Deputies.