Due to new municipal ordinance, sex workers from Encarnación, Paraguay are prohibited to work in the streets of the city. According to the national sex worker-led organisation UNES – Organización de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales del Paraguay – this prohibition regulates work and activities in public areas of the city, criminalises people who autonomously engage in sex work, and increases police repression and state violence against sex workers. The organisation in public note calls on the international community to verify the human rights violations occurred due to the new policy.
UNES clarifies that the actual ordinance is illegal under the Paraguayan Law; as to regulate and punish sex workers who work in unauthorised areas of the city, the economic activity must first be regulated and considered work. It is illegal to charge fines against an activity that is not recognised, nor regulated by the State. Moreover, the new ordinance has served to justify raids and arbitrary arrests, feeding police corruption and violence against vulnerable sex workers.
Sex workers from UNES reaffirm that the Paraguayan State cannot prohibit something that legally “does not exist”, or that is not criminalised, such as sex work. This ordinance is seen as highly biased and ideological and does not take into account the concrete reality and working situation of sex workers. The organisation also highlighted that sex work should not be associated with crime when practised by an adult person out of free will.
Finally, sex workers from Encarnación state that the Constitution should guarantee equal rights for all citizens of Paraguay, meaning that sex workers have the same rights as any other citizen. They also underscored in the note that the fight against trafficking in women would only be effective if sex work is legally recognised and adequate working conditions promoted.
- Considering the actual situation, the organisation UNES demands the following:
- Repeal of municipal ordinances and laws that criminalise and stigmatise sex workers
- Use of appropriate language by the media, and the use of professional ethical codes. Journalists must speak of sex work and not prostitution;
- Respect of sex workers voices, as they are adult women who make decisions freely, and should be considered in any discussion about them;
- Train state security forces to ensure respect for human rights and reduce stigma and discrimination against sex workers;
- Consider sex workers in the design and implementation of public policies and legislation that concern them, recognising their rights.