The 23rd-25th November was the 14th meeting of Encuentro Feminista de Latino América y el Caribe (Feminist Meeting from Latin America and the Caribbean, known as ‘EFLAC’), which took place in Montevideo, Uruguay. Many groups of women from all over the region attended, including more than 30 sex workers from different countries like Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Panamá, México, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The meeting’s motto was “Diverse but not Dispersed”.
“The presence of sex workers in the EFLAC is very important. We have so much to learn, but also a lot to share with non-sex worker feminists. I found that most of them, even if they have participated in feminism for a long time, have a lot of questions. They watch us and talk among themselves, so it is wonderful to be there and give them firsthand information so they can build their own position. I heard them say they did not expect sex workers to be so organised and to attend the meeting. It is always good to be a surprise for the feminists.” said Ana, who was attending EFLAC for the first time.
As usual, every group and organisation had the opportunity to carry out their own proposals for self-managed activities. The sex workers proposed 2 initiatives: “Sex work and feminism: we have travelled a long road” where they showed the links between both subjects, and “What is said about sex work”, a ‘talk show’ in which they showed different myths and debates around sex work using humour.
The sex workers were included in the following discussions within the group: Bodies, subjectivity and Rights; Racism and discrimination; Challenges and perspectives of the feminist economy; Democracy, lay state and fundamentalisms; The names of feminisms; Gender violences; and Autonomy and power, dilemmas and challenges.
Since the beginning, the feminist conferences have discussed and reflected on the body. Corporeal work has been discussed, essentially associated with self-care. The theme of bodies is central to feminist theory, reflection, and action, especially since the subjection of bodies has been a weapon and a fundamental expression of patriarchal oppression.
“I found weird that when we started discussing about the body, they only talked about abortion. I would think that sex work would be also a vital part of the discussion. So it was very important to have presence in that conversation. Abortion is a fundamental part, but it is not everything”. Said Ana.
The meeting turned out to be a comfortable and safe space for the sex workers, which is especially important following a recent negative experience for sex workers from the region. During the National Women’s Meeting in Buenos Aires, where more than one thousand women attended seven workshops led by sex workers, a sex worker from AMMAR, (Asociación de Mujeres Meretrices de la Argentina), was verbally and physically attacked. “An act of violence against a comrade happened. She was aggressed verbally and physically by three women from the municipality of La Matanza who identified themselves as prostitution abolitionists, as they wanted to burst with shouts and jostles in one of the workshops”.
“When we asked her to stop the aggression, her answer was to smash a bottle on the wall and beat the comrade on the face while she insulted her.” Say the documents that the organisation shared with social networks.
“It was the first time that we had our own workshops, instead of attending to the one called “women in prostitution situation” in which we don’t feel represented, so we didn’t expect we would have that bad experience”, said Sofía Tramazayguez, the attacked sex worker.
Fortunately the experience was not repeated this time, and the EFLAC in Montevideo was a safe space for sex workers, despite of a short encounter with abolitionists during the march, which sex workers decided to avoid.