Mexico City Congress votes to decriminalise sex workers and clients

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Politicians in Mexico City have voted to amend a Bill to decriminalise sex workers and their clients in the city. On 31st May, members of Congress voted to amend the wording of the Bill to remove a line allowing for prosecutions of sex workers and clients if neighbours make a complaint.

Sex work in Mexico is regulated at a local level, with different laws used to criminalise sex work or sex workers’ clients. The amendment to this Bill would mean that there are no laws explicitly criminalising the sale and purchase of sexual services in the Ley de Cultura Cívica [Civic Culture Law]. There are other laws in Mexico criminalising the organisation of sex work and ‘living off the earnings’ of sex work, which is conflated with trafficking.

La Brigada Callejera, a sex workers’ rights group in Mexico, has said decriminalisation is welcome, but links must be made between government departments (Human Rights Commission, Mexico City Council for Prevention of Discrimination, and others) to provide a framework to protect sex workers’ rights.

The draft Bill included lines which said “inviting prostitution, or exercising it, or requesting such a service” was an act that “violated people’s tranquillity”, and could have led to sex workers and clients being fined or arrested. This was criticised by sex workers’ rights groups, as well as government officials. The head of Mexico City Government, Claudia Sheinbaum, had previously written to the Mexico City Congress, arguing that the inclusion of the line criminalising sex work stigmatised sex workers and went against progressive human rights principles. The line has since been removed. Temistocles Villanueva, a local representative from the Morena party, tweeted that Congress was able to approve the changes ‘thanks to dialogue with sex workers’.