Tag Archives: Latin America


Over the past decade, data have identified male sex work as a potentially viable economic decision; despite this, male sex workers (MSWs) continue to be perceived as group with access to few assets and resources. Using data from a pilot skills–building intervention for MSWs in Lima, Peru, an analysis of the economic characteristics of 209 MSWs is presented. The majority reported livable incomes with median earnings of US$250 per month, 83% earning above the urban poverty line. Interestingly, non-sex work was also an important source of income, especially for the high-earning MSWs. Spending data revealed that a large portion of income went to necessities (55%), luxuries (11%), and gifts (11%), with less toward savings (5%) and studies (1%). Such data on MSWs’ earnings and spending, which suggest that a lack of overall income is not the MSW’s main impediment to escaping poverty, could direct future poverty alleviation and health improvement programs in this key population.

Van Meir, Jessica. 2017. “Sex Work and the Politics of Space: Case Studies of Sex Workers in Argentina and Ecuador.” Soc. Sci. 6, no. 2: 42.
While many studies examine how different legal approaches to prostitution affect sex workers’ living and working conditions, few studies analyze how sex workers’ physical workspaces and the policies regulating these spaces influence sex work conditions. Based on interviews with 109 current or former sex workers, 13 civil society representatives, 12 government officials, and 5 other actors in Ecuador and Argentina, this study describes sex workers’ uses of urban space in the two countries and compares how they experience and respond to government regulation of locations of prostitution. Argentina and Ecuador took different approaches to regulating sex work space, which appear to reflect different political ideologies towards prostitution. Sex workers expressed different individual preferences for spaces, and government limitation of these spaces represented one of their major concerns. The results illuminate how sex workers’ workspaces influence their working conditions and suggest that governments should consider sex worker preferences in establishing policies that affect their workspaces.

View Full-Text

Jessica Van Meir’s Blog with reflections and notes on her research.

Fassi, Marisa N. “Sex Work and the Claim for Grassroots Legislation.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 0, no. 0 (January 8, 2015): 1–11. doi:10.1080/13691058.2014.990517.

The aim of this paper is to contribute to understanding of legal models that aim to control sex work, and the policy implications of these, by discussing the experience of developing a grassroots legislation bill proposal by organised sex workers in Córdoba, Argentina. The term ‘grassroots legislation’ here refers to a legal response that derives from the active involvement of local social movements and thus incorporates the experiential knowledge and claims of these particular social groupings in the proposal. The experience described in this paper excludes approaches that render sex workers as passive victims or as deviant perpetrators; instead, it conceives of sex workers in terms of their political subjectivity and of political subjectivity in its capacity to speak, to decide, to act and to propose. This means challenging current patterns of knowledge/power that give superiority to ‘expert knowledge’ above and beyond the claims, experiences, knowledge and needs of sex workers themselves as meaningful sources for law making.

A partir del análisis de una experiencia centrada en la elaboración de un proyecto de ley de base propuesto por sexoservidoras organizadas en Córdoba, Argentina, el presente artículo intenta contribuir tanto a la comprensión de los modelos jurídicos que pretenden controlar el trabajo sexual como a la comprensión de sus implicaciones políticas. El término proyecto de ley de base hace referencia a la respuesta jurídica derivada de la participación activa de los movimientos sociales locales. Por ello, incorpora en el mismo el conocimiento vivencial y los reclamos de estas agrupaciones sociales. La vivencia descrita en este artículo excluye todo enfoque que conciba a las sexoservidoras como víctimas pasivas o como perpetradoras pervertidas; por el contrario, las concibe en términos de su subjetividad política, de su capacidad de hablar, de decidir, de actuar y de proponer. Ello implica un cuestionamiento dirigido contra los patrones actuales de conocimiento/poder que, frente a los reclamos, las vivencias, el conocimiento y las necesidades de las propias sexoservidoras en tanto fuente de conocimientos principal para el proceso a legislar, otorgan superioridad a los ‘conocimientos de expertos’.

Cet article a pour objectif de contribuer à l’amélioration des connaissances sur les modèles juridiques de contrôle du travail du sexe et sur leurs implications politiques, en évoquant le processus d’élaboration, par des travailleuses du sexe vivant dans la ville argentine de Cordoba, d’une proposition de projet de loi communautaire. Le terme « loi communautaire » employé ici renvoie à une réponse juridique qui résulte de l’engagement actif des mouvements sociaux locaux et qui, par conséquent, intègre les connaissances expérientielles et les revendications de ces mêmes mouvements dans la proposition. L’expérience décrite dans cet article exclut les approches selon lesquelles les travailleuses du sexe sont des victimes passives ou des déviantes. Elle se base plutôt sur une conception des travailleuses du sexe reconnaissant leur subjectivité politique, cette subjectivité renvoyant à leur capacité de parler, de décider, d’agir et de proposer. Cette approche remet en question les modèles courants de connaissances/pouvoir qui octroient une certaine supériorité à la « connaissance experte » et positionnent celle-ci au-dessus et au-delà des revendications, des expériences, des connaissances et des besoins des travailleuses du sexe, c’est-à-dire les éléments légitimes sur lesquels doit s’appuyer l’élaboration de lois sur le travail du sexe.

This report highlights 42 innovative examples from 28 countries and regions in which the workplace and/or workforce was used as an entry point to reach sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender populations, people who inject drugs, migrant workers, truckers, ship and dockworkers and the prisons populations with HIV services. Country case studies are presented from Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Southern Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Africa); Canada, Guyana and USA the Americas); United Arab Emirates (Arab States); Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam (Asia and the Pacific); and Albania, Austria, the European Union, Scotland and the United Kingdom (Europe and Central Asia.

Full report available here. 

Ana Paula da SilvaI; Thaddeus Gregory BlanchetteII; Andressa Raylane BentoIII  (2013): Cinderella deceived. Analyzing a Brazilian myth regarding trafficking in persons, Vibrant, Virtual Braz. Anthr. vol.10 no.2 Brasília July/Dec. 2013 


This article provides an overview of how trafficking in persons has come to be imagined in Brazil. We stipulate that a mythical narrative has become central to discourses about trafficking used to guide policy-makers and educate civil society. We perform a structural analysis of this myth arguing that its acceptance, combined with the persistence of laws that define trafficking solely as the migration of prostitutes, has shifted public discussion towards a paradigm of passivity and law enforcement where members of certain social categories must be “educated to understand that they are victims” and their movements must be curtailed.

Keywords: Trafficking in persons, prostitution, Brazil, myths



O presente artigo fornece uma visão geral de como o tráfico de pessoas tem sido imaginado no Brasil. Afirmamos que uma narrativa mítica tornou-se central para os discursos sobre o tráfico utilizados para orientar os agentes políticos e educar a sociedade civil. Realizamos uma análise estrutural desse mito, argumentando que a sua aceitação, combinada com a persistência de leis que definem o tráfico apenas como a migração de prostitutas, tem criado, na discussão pública, uma paradigma de passividade e de estrito legalismo, onde os membros de certas categorias sociais devem ser “educados para entenderem que são vítimas ” e seus movimentos devem ser reprimidos.

Palavras-chave: tráfico de pessoas, prostituição, Brasil, mitos

The Political Economy of Desire: Geographies of Female Sex Work in Havana, Cuba

Author: Cynthia Pope
Journal of International Women’s Studies, Vol. 6 Issue 2, Art. 7 (06/2005)


The global political economy of desire influences the construction of gendered spaces in Cuba. One of the results of increasing global linkages has been the rise in sex tourism throughout the world. This is particularly salient in Havana where girls and women are increasingly being drawn to commercial sex work as a means for economic survival and access to dollars-only places, such as restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, and stores. Despite forty years of gender equity laws and a highly-educated population, sex work in Cuba has come full circle, and the nation is quickly gaining the reputation, “the Thailand of the Caribbean.”

This case study draws on 38 interviews with sex workers, locally known as jineteras, in Havana’s tourist districts. It examines the physical, social, and moral spaces in which sex work takes place and teases out some of the more salient power relations involved in creating and maintaining these spaces. Using a geographic lens illuminates some of the influences of sex work on Cuban society that otherwise may go unnoticed. Sex work in Havana is not merely a side note to the economic crisis of the 1990s. Rather, sex work affects many sectors of the dollars-only economy in Havana; it highlights race and class issues that many people think have been eradicated by Revolutionary ideology; and it shows how women’s bodies, and not just sex workers’ bodies, have been commodified for personal, and even national, economic gain.

Read the full article here.

Erica L. Williams (2013): Sex work and exclusion in the tourist districts of Salvador, Brazil, in: Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geograph.


Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, in the Northeastern region of Brazil, is composed of racialized, gendered, and sexualized spaces in which certain people are welcome, while others are marginalized and excluded. Praça da Sé, in the Centro Histórico, is a major site of both the local commercial sex industry and the tourist industry in Salvador. With their public visibility in sites heavily frequented by tourists, sex workers in Salvador reveal how sexuality is public, politically contested, economically charged, and, most significantly, racialized. If, as Tom Boellstorff argues, ‘globalization resignifies the meaning of place rather than making place irrelevant’ (2007, 23), how does one then study racialized sexualities in the context of the globalized tourism industry? How do class, space, and race influence practices of sex work and sex tourism in Salvador? This article offers a critical analysis of racialized sexualities in the study of the sexual economies of tourism in Salvador. I conceptualize Salvador as a ‘site of desire’ (Manderson and Jolly 1997) where issues of socioeconomic inequality, racism, and sexism coexist alongside celebratory affirmations of Afro-Brazilian cultural production in Salvador. This article explores how the touristic cityscape of Salvador is divided into carefully demarcated zones where class and race are crucial factors in determining who ‘belongs’ and who is ‘out of place.’ Read More

Dewey, Susan/Kelly, Patty: Policing Pleasure: Sex Work, Policy, and the State in Global Perspective, New York University Press 2011.

Mónica waits in the Anti-Venereal Medical Service of the Zona Galactica, the legal, state-run brothel where she works in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico. Surrounded by other sex workers, she clutches the Sanitary Control Cards that deem her registered with the city, disease-free, and able to work. On the other side of the world, Min stands singing karaoke with one of her regular clients, warily eyeing the door lest a raid by the anti-trafficking Public Security Bureau disrupt their evening by placing one or both of them in jail.
Whether in Mexico or China, sex work-related public policy varies considerably from one community to the next. A range of policies dictate what is permissible, many of them intending to keep sex workers themselves healthy and free from harm. Yet often, policies with particular goals end up having completely different consequences.
Policing Pleasure examines cross-cultural public policies related to sex work, bringing together ethnographic studies from around the world—from South Africa to India—to offer a nuanced critique of national and municipal approaches to regulating sex work. Contributors offer new theoretical and methodological perspectives that move beyond already well-established debates between “abolitionists” and “sex workers’ rights advocates” to document both the intention of public policies on sex work and their actual impact upon those who sell sex, those who buy sex, and public health more generally.