ONAEM has prepared a written response to the «inaccurate and denigrating» information published in a national newspaper about sex work in Bolivia.
On March 2, 2012, the newspaper «El País» published, as the statement relates, an article titled «The luck of being the ‘ideal prostitute’ in brothels» that defines prostitution as an activity of exchanging sexual merchandise for money.
From ONAEM (Organización Nacional de Activistas por la Emancipación de la Mujer) they have respond saying, in line with the position of all member organizations of RedTraSex, “We are not merchandise, we do not sell our bodies, but we provide a service that should be paid fairly”.
Evelia Yucra, ONAEM National President, added: “The correct word for people who engage in this business is ‘sex worker’, as this concept adds value and enhances the activity, which enables many of the activists to address the economic needs that arise in their homes”.
In the statement, the activists of the organization reaffirm a fight that all network drives for years: that sex work is considered work, promoting respect for the rights of sex workers women by institutions, authorities and general population.
On the other hand, ONAEM strongly denied the situation of the fellows is «ideal» as cited by the newspaper. «The competition between the brothels has meant that sex workers women demand more of themselves, but despite these demands, requirements established by the owners of these places, who are in a constant struggle to offer the best product, thus most requested women are women without children, inexperienced or under legal age, as they often do not require the use of condoms,” details the information released by the Bolivian organization.
Throughout the press release mentioned the hefty income sex workers women have when their clients consume alcohol, but from the member organization of the RedTraSex explains that the situation is delicate and more complex, because there are stiff penalties for women who fail customers to drink enough, among other difficulties that arise (see «For a fair Ordinance«).
In this regard the Ombudsman of Tarija reinforces this explanation by stating that “not all do well in this business, many are abused by owners who are considered capable of give physical, psychological and economic violence to this vulnerable group of society”.
According those who know the subject, the most common penalties are: reducing the amount that corresponds to the workers, the confiscation of their belongings, the concealment of tokens that workers have for drinking or doing «room», the obligation to provide themselves with sheets, or the sale of condoms at higher prices compared to those offered in the local market, among other abuses.
Another irregularity in this business is the lack of health card, declare the members of ONAEM. “More than 30% of women engaged in this profession do not have this document, for not having ID. When the bar owners contract them they not require the Card, but when the police conduct raids and fines are charged to the bars, they hide behind saying that it is not their responsibility, and the amounts paid by the fines recovered by charging sex workers women high amounts of money”.
The harsh realities sex workers women in Bolivia faces, abuse and discrimination through media has outraged their representatives, who in response to the newspaper article publish a statement on 6th of March, 2012 in the same national newspaper titled «Sex workers women claim new term to refer to their work,» where fellows from ONAEM asked for more security in the brothels and motels where they are «outraged», at risk and with abuses that go against their psychological and physics integrity.
ONAEM thus, seeing its situation, continues its fight for change in society, to make it more inclusive, less discriminatory and let women decide about their life and their body.