Continued Conflation of Sex Work and Human Trafficking in Mexico

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Latin America Regional Correspondent

In Mexico, there is a conflation between human trafficking and sex work. Sex work stigmatised, and sex workers experience marginalisation and discrimination, which violates their human rights. Addressing these issues has required raising awareness within various segments of society.

NSWP member APROASE warned Mexicans about the negative impact that the Law Against Human Trafficking would have on both the recognition of sex work as work and on the human rights of sex workers.

Cynthia Navarrete Gil, Director of the first organization of sex workers in Mexico, APROASE A.C., stated in an interview with NSWP’s Regional Correspondent in Latin America,

"APROASE has worked on advocacy ever since the Law Against Human Traffic was introduced by Rosy Orozco. At the time, Orozco was President of the organisation "United Against Human Traffic.” The law is contrary to sex workers’ rights, and criminalises aspects of the organisations that work to help sex workers. The law states that any any person who facilitates another person to engage in prostitution is a trafficker. This was a terrible blow to APROASE, our organisation, which has been aiding sex workers who work in the Sullivan district for over twenty years. APROASE has fought to make this area free of violence, and we are working on the prevention of HIV and other STIs.

Unfortunately, our CEO and the former vice president of the NSWP, Alejandra Gil was deprived of her lierty as a result of this law and is now in jail. Other female sex workers are also deprived of their liberty as a result of this law.

Our organisation's work is devastated because we were tortured and stigmatised by the media. NGOs no longer trust us, despite the fact that we have always met our goals and objectives. We are being discriminated against because of this law.

Now, the only thing left for us is to work with the few organisations who still trust us. Penalties range from 15 to 40 years in prison, without bail or benefits, because working to support sex workers is considered promoting human traffic. Alejandra Gil and her son Omar were sentenced to 15 years in prison. A sex worker who was being helped by Alejandra Gil denounced her, after being advised by Rosy Orozco.

Legal representation is expensive and female sex workers who are facing prosecution have to rely on the free counsel provided by the court, which is on the side of the alleged victims.

Doing a thorough analysis of this law we must insist that it be repealed. It needs to be modified because even customers, by engaging in soliciting, are considered facilitators of prostitution and can therefore be charged with trafficking. We are at risk of running out of customers, workplaces and leaders to advise us. However, it is never too late to make changes. We now think it is important to make a critical remark on behalf of all non-governmental organisations who have worked in Mexico and Latin America for the recognition of sex work, to make a vow to continue working hard in the clear differentiation of human trafficking and sex work, and to achieve full recognition in the context of human rights. Until this happens, we continue to live through a real witch hunt."

While Alejandra Gil remains in prison for supporting sex workers’ rights, Rosy Orozco is immersed in election politics. She has been publicly identified in the media as someone who exploits victims. Allegedly she has coerced them into doing media and has ‘bought’ the vote in the district she represents.

Rosy Orozco has been known set up a "show" on human trafficking in cahoots with Mexico City's Attorney General (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal, PGJDF). She is said to "have all victims delivered to her automatically. Just like that, rescue and deliver. Some remain with her, others do not want to stay and they leave. Then the media circus starts: taking the victims immediately to make media appearances and making a show.”

Despite all of these allegations, she is still the leader of a human trafficking organisation in Mexico.