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RedTraSex condemn police ‘witch hunt’ of sex workers in Colombia


Aids Alliance

The recent recall of several secret service agents providing security for President Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Colombia focused the world’s attention for a few days on the issues faced by sex workers. Sex workers continue to be subjected to threats, refusal to pay, intimidation and indeed violence in many parts of the world, including across Latin America.

Alliance regional partner, RedTraSex, the network of female sex workers in Latin America and the Caribbean, has issued an official statement on the police reaction following Obama’s security forces apparent refusal to pay what they owed the sex workers in the city of Cartagena.

Even though sex work is legal in Colombia, police embarked on what RedTraSex compared to an “ancient witch hunt” against the 21 sex workers who were involved.  “With a list of names in their hands, the security forces prowl bars and night clubs in search of the women in question” the statement reads.

For RedTraSex there is no justification for this persecution of the sex workers. The police have offered them no explanation and no apology. “The police have got the wrong enemy” maintains Elena Reynaga, the executive secretary of the network, "the women didn’t commit any crime, they were just going about their work in a dignified way.”

RedTraSex also criticises the media for their coverage of this issue, which it says dangerously confuses sex work with human trafficking, and has focused its attention on the supposed threat to the president’s security posed by the women, rather than focus on the intimidation faced by the women themselves. It is felt that the media and the police have diverted from the real issue at hand, the violation of the rights of female sex workers.

In June, the Organisation of American States will be meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where RedTraSex will be staging a protest to demand labour rights for sex workers, and an end to repression and prejudice. They will also hold a press conference to respond to the considerable media attention the case in Colombia has generated.

The RedTraSex statement concludes. “With our arms held high we will continue with our struggle and look forward to the day when police protect the people whose rights are being violated instead of supporting impunity, abuses and discrimination.”

You can read RedTraSex’s full statement (in Spanish) here.