Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sex workers in Colombia

From The Economist:
Sex workers in Colombia
The Economist; London424.9050 (Jul 22, 2017): 42.

"Some 4,500 Venezuelan prostitutes are thought to be working in Colombia; the trade is legal in both countries. But until recently they were often rounded up by police and deported back to Venezuela by the busload. That changed in April, when Colombia's constitutional court ruled that Venezuelan sex workers are entitled to work visas. Mass deportations violate international human-rights law, it said. "One should weigh up the reasons they decided to come to Colombia...and the specific situation they would face in Venezuela were they to be returned," said the ruling.

The case has its origins in Chinacota, a tiny town an hour's drive from the border city of Cucuta. Last year the town's mayor closed down the Taberna Barlovento, a bar that also serves as a brothel, saying it violated zoning rules. Along with beverages, the bar offers four bedrooms just big enough to fit a mattress or two. Founded in 1935, the bar is a Chinacota institution, says Nelcy Esperanza Delgado, its owner.

When the mayor shut Ms Delgado down, she fought back in court. She and the prostitutes who worked there, including four Venezuelans, had no other income, she said. Closing Taberna Barlovento violated their right to work. The court agreed, and the bar reopened.
"Colombians along the border are accustomed to Venezuelans streaming across, but the area's sex workers do not relish the competition. Venezuelans charge the equivalent of $10-13 for a 20-minute session; the Colombian rate is around $13-17. Colombians complain that they are being forced to cut their prices. While Colombia is El Dorado compared with Venezuela, economic growth is slow and the unemployment rate is 9.4%. Colombians haven't forgotten that in 2015 Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, blamed them for the shortages and deported 1,100. Many forded rivers on their way back to Colombia.

While the law is becoming more welcoming to desperate Venezuelans, Colombians are growing increasingly nervous about the influx. Barbara thinks other countries offer bigger opportunities. She is planning to move on to Ecuador, where customers pay in American dollars."

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