Tuesday, June 16, 2009

San Jose's Red Light District

In Costa Rica, sex work has been legalized. This has been a draw for biological and trans women from all over Latin America to find work and be able to send money home to their families. We first noticed that we were in such an area when we walked from our hostel to a restaurant seven blocks away and saw a lot of scantily-clad women (some who were VERY tall) on corners and waving at passing cars. It was confirmed when we talked to a guy who drove us back from the car rental place near the airport.

We had to turn our rental car back in at the airport on our last night, and when we were asking how to get to the bus stop, our agent told us that if we could wait a few minutes, we could ride back to San Jose with his buddy who was parked nearby and heading back to the city. What luck! In the car on the way back, we told him where were staying and he informed us that that was that 'zona roja'. Gonzalo said 'I thought so - there were a lot of women on the streets' and the guy said 'uh, those aren't women'. Naturally this interested me as someone who works in the field of HIV prevention. He told us that sex work is legal in Costa Rica and that there are a ton of immigrants trying to make a living.

My next questions were about how the industry works - do the sex workers have to register with someone? do they have regular health screenings? are they protected under the law? are their earnings taxed? are there alternatives to this industry - enough other kinds of jobs for women? He didn't know any more details, but now I want to go learn more about this. Does anybody know where I can get reliable info in English or Spanish? Thanks.

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