In an effort to visibilize and defend the rights of sex workers, members of Argentina's sex worker association are meeting in front of Congress this week to demand legal recognition and protections for their line of work.
The three-day conference, organized by The Association of Argentine Sex Workers (AMMAR), includes debates about industry issues, panels on workers' rights, and the first-ever sex worker training workshop that included a special session on how to use your mouth to put a condom on a client's penis.
Other elements of the training workshop include how to set prices and negotiate with clients, and how to report violence. Those who completed the workshop got a certificate with the words "sex work is work."
The three-day meeting, which ends Wednesday afternoon with a photographic exhibit to denounce violence against sex workers, also includes free HIV/AIDs tests and a cabaret show.
"We thought of having an activity like this to close out the year with a meeting and debate that will consolidate our alliances and the work we've done for several years of fighting for the regulation of sex work in Argentina," Georgina Orellano, secretary general of AMMAR, said in a written statement.
"We don't just want to discuss the problems facing our sector, but also make them more visible," Orellano said. "In that sense, we want the government to know that it needs to legislate this work from a position of human rights and not from a punitive, political stance, as it has been doing. That's why we're doing this in public to invite whoever wants to learn more about our organization and our reality."
Prostitution has been around since money was invented, but the rights and guarantees of sex workers haven’t evolved much since then. For most sex workers in Latin America, the only true “labor protection” they have comes in a condom wrapper.
Uruguay —arguably the most progressive nation in South America — is the only country in the region with legalized and regulated prostitution; sex workers there have access to social security and retirement benefits. In the rest of Latin America, it’s a different story. The sex trade still occupies a strange gray area between legal and illegal — it isn’t exactly either, and that ambiguity forces tens of thousands of women to totter through the shadows of society, where they’re vulnerable to all sorts of mischief and violence.