Criminalization sets a context in which the range of human rights violations experienced by sex workers is validated. Cross-movement collaboration on decriminalizing sex work is needed, now, more than ever.
In mid-November, I attended a RedTraSex meeting to review “Advances, challenges and strategies of the RedTraSex: strengthening sustainability and advancing the recognition of our rights.” RedTraSex is the Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinamérica y el Caribe (Network of Sex Workers of Latin America and the Caribbean.) RedTraSex, on the cusp of celebrating its 20th anniversary, is made up of organizations from fifteen countries – Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Dominican Republic.
Fifteen years ago, scholars and political scientists alike announced the Rise of the New Left in Latin America: with Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Lula/Rouseff in Brazil it seemed the tide was turning in Latin America. And while we have all been hopeful that Latin America was on a path to success, it seems that joy is short lived. Even if you are only vaguely familiar with Latin American history, a history ranging from colonialism to outright imperialism, you have some inkling that the US has played a critical role in shaping political leadership within the region; often times unjustly destabilising regimes which were the result of democratically held, free and fair elections (an ideal supposedly supported by the US).
The military coups of the 1970s and the following military dictatorships, ushered in a period of ‘disappearances’, neoliberal economics, privatisation, and socially restrictive policies. And if we look back further we can see a litany of other disasters like the destruction of popular movements, the ousting and defeat of elected leaders, and other horrors overseen by the US. The notion that US directly oversaw such atrocities, once conspiracy, is now widely accepted as truth. Thus, when they ask: why does Latin America have so many problems? We can answer: Imperialism.
Latin America rebounded from the military dictatorships of the 70s in a big way, many countries holding free and fair elections, establishing solidarity between other LA nations in what has been referred to as a ‘pink tide’. For some, this ‘pink tide’ was not ‘leftist’ enough (and this isn’t to say that these regimes were perfect, far from it), however significant economic and social recovery was made under these regimes and many leaders at least attempted to address inequality, inflation, and US interference. More recently, things seem to be slipping into what may seem like a distant memory.
What’s being left in Latin America?