Serious human rights violation against a sex worker by the Bolivian police



We are alarmed and are exposing a serious human rights violation against a sex worker in Bolivia. One of our compañeras was kidnapped, beaten up and raped for two months and the National Police refused to take her report because she is a sex worker.

Last Friday, August 20, one of our compañeras – a sex worker in Cochabamba, Bolivia – managed to escape from a house to which she had been kidnapped, kept gagged and tied down to be raped, beaten up and kept undernourished for a period of two months.

However, and in spite of these facts, the Bolivian National Police refused to provide her with protection and even to take her report, their only argument being that she was a sex worker.If she is a sex worker, that is what she does all the time”, was the argument used by the Cochabamba police to back up its refusal to take a report from a woman who had been kidnapped, beaten up and raped for two months.

A professional team from the Women’s Support Office was requested for and a representative from the Office – Ms Andrea García – accompanied our Bolivian sex worker’s compañeras to put pressure on the police at the very door of their station until our compañera who had been abused could make her report. Machista and institutional violence has deep roots in the security forces and in spite of the presence of all those women police officers only gave in, and did their job of protecting citizens without any bias or exclusion, when Mr. Nelson Cox, Vice-Minister of the Domestic State Regime, intervened.

On June 25, 2021, our compañera was working as usual in the city streets. Pretending to be a client, the kidnapper-rapist approached her and requested her services, offering a bonus fee if she agreed to provided them at his home. She agreed because, as a woman head of household, that extra money would be very welcome given the difficult economic situation she was facing. Once the service had been provided, the man stopped her from leaving, tore her clothes off, took her ID card, and then tied up and gagged her. For the next two months, he repeatedly beat up and raped her, and only allowed her to drink water and eat bread.

On Friday, August 20th, the kidnapper-rapist forgot to tie up our compañera’s hands before leaving his home. Even though she was feeling weak, she managed to escape. She then looked for our sex worker compañeras and together they went to the Comprehensive Police Station No. 6 in Cochabamba (located in Ayacucho Avenue). As if all she had experienced were not enough, she faced even more violence from the police who refused to allow her to make a report against her abuser. Talking to Elena Reynaga, REDTRASEX’s Executive Secretary, Ms. Andrea García said, “Violating Bolivian law, the police officers failed to activate immediate protection mechanisms only because the victim was a sex worker”.

Under pressure, the police decided to open a case but labelled the kidnapping, rape and forced starvation as “a fight and row”. The situation was very stressful on that Friday, August 20th, as Ms Andrea García and our compañeras were at the police station until the early hours of the next morning to make sure the woman, victimized by both the kidnapper and the police, could submit her complaint. The fact that the kidnapper had been arrested in flagrante delicto and as the law dictates, and was going to be released after 8 hours only added to the tense situation.

What that man did to our compañera is outrageous but the behaviour of the Bolivian police is doubly so. Who protects us from the police? As if our compañera had not already been kidnapped and raped, she had to still be re-victimized by security forces.

When there is a crime, everyone in society resorts to the police but that option is closed to women sex workers as State forces are themselves the perpetrators or, like in this case, they are accomplices and/or those re-victimizing us.

For years, REDTRASEX has exposed institutional violence suffered by women sex workers and how States render us vulnerable by avoiding their responsibility to pass a law recognizing our status as workers that among other rights will also protect us from the police ignoring our complaints due to the entrenched bias because of our occupation.

In recent years, our work has aimed to make visible and expose the many and very serious human rights violations we suffer. And we will not stop until we have taken these cases to the necessary institutions because our compañera managed to escape and she is alive, but what happened to her happens to many others, all the time, with many of them dying and disappearing while States fail to fulfill their responsibilities.

As long as society and decision-makers continue to heed moralistic calls, time will continue to pass and episodes like this one will continue to happen, with the complicity of the police and security forces in Latin American and Caribbean States.

We demand that the Plurinational State of Bolivia activates all protection and safety protocols for our compañera and her children; investigates so the kidnapper-rapist has to be accountable for his deeds to the justice system; urgently implements guidelines on respecting human rights within its security forces; and moves forward with passing laws that protect us as women workers.

All women sex workers from the region and our allies have our eyes and our attention focused on this case and we will watch how it progresses. A society in which we have to protect ourselves from kidnappers, rapists and also security forces will never be a fair society. This cannot continue to happen, this can never happen again.

Elena Eva Reynaga
Executive Secretary – REDTRASEX
+54911 44212201 –

Fitti Lino Terceros
President – Organización Nacional de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Bolivia WARMI
+591 69920642 –

Lic. Andrea García Magne
Representative – Oficina de Apoyo para la Mujer Cochabamba
+591 70786319 –

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