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Occidental College

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


Argentina is a country with a rich history of social movements and popular mobilization. Currently, the issue of women’s equality is highly prevalent in the national and political dialogue. An area that is frequently referenced as a divide in the feminist movement is sex work. Argentina has adopted a series of laws and regulations that have created an ‘abolitionist’ political atmosphere, outlawing the sexual exploitation of individuals and persecuting ‘pimps’, per se. The politics surrounding sex work, on paper, are meant to eliminate human trafficking rings and lower the amount of victims exploited through trafficking. However, the application of the laws surrounding sex work in Argentina has homogenized the concept of sex work and created the image of female sex workers as victims of exploitation, which makes the sector of sex workers who voluntarily engage in the practice largely invisible. According to Ley 26.364 and Artículos 125, 125 bis, 126, and 127 in Argentina’s Código Penal, all sex work is considered to be a form of sexual exploitation and all those who identify as prostitutes are victims of sexual slavery. The laws and their application have adopted a victimizing narrative in order to homogenize sex work as one cohesive concept. The popular perception of sex workers is that of a fallen individual, either morally disgraceful or forced into exploitative labor practices.

It is clear from the application of abolitionist laws that the current political atmosphere does not recognize sex work as a legitimate form of labor, due to the socially unaccepted sexual practices of female sex workers. These individuals embody a type of sexuality that is considered distasteful and disrespectful, for it goes against the norm of a married, child-bearing, motherly, monogamous woman. As a result of this stigma, there is no recognition of sex work as legitimate work, which leaves these women without economic, medical, or personal security. There are no laws which protect the rights of women who voluntarily choose to sell sexual services as a form of income. This lack of recognition means that these women are essentialized by the application of anti-trafficking laws, which paint female sex workers as victims and remove their agency, and also increase the likelihood for the experience of institutional violence.

This project aims to deconstruct the political stigma that exists towards voluntary female sex work and how the current application of anti-trafficking laws has affected the livelihoods of individuals who identify as voluntary female sex workers. The evidence for this project is qualitatively drawn from personal interviews with academics about female sex work in Buenos Aires and with activists from the advocacy networks of AMMAR (Asociación de Mujeres Meretrices de la Argentina en Acción por Nuestros Derechos) and RedTraSex (Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe). AMMAR and RedTraSex have created a connection with the Central de Trabajador@s Argentinos, and AMMAR has adopted the title of a formal labor union for voluntary female sex workers in Argentina. This project aims to analyze how the application of abolitionist politics by the state of Argentina have infringed on the human rights of voluntary female sex workers, and how female sex workers are creating strategies in order to combat the political stigma that exists. This project intends to reveal the intentional targeting by the state of voluntary sex workers, under the veil of abolitionist application of laws, in order to control and subvert the sexuality of women in Buenos Aires. The concepts of machista, patriarchal culture will be used as a method to examine the roots of current application of abolitionist politics, and the social stigma of female sexuality will be used to analyze why voluntary female sex workers suffer discrimination in the political sphere of Argentina. The analysis of these dimensions allows for an insight as to how the current laws surrounding sex work are essentializing and removing agency from an entire sector of workers who are being denied legal protections of economic rights in the Argentine economy as a result of their defiance of heteronormative sexuality.


Community-Based Learning | Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Labor and Employment Law | Latin American Studies | Law | Organization Development | Other Law | Politics and Social Change | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Work, Economy and Organizations


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