“Before the pandemic, at least there was enough for all of them, the client chose and that’s it. But now there is no respect, they take the client out of your hands“.
This is how Paola sees the critical situation in the Clock Tower, in Cartagena, where the prostitution it is overwhelmed.
The woman is from Córdoba and she went to live in Cartagena in 2013 with the hope of getting a job in the tourism sector, but things did not turn out the way she wanted, and she ended up in the world of sex work.
Paola has been working in this area of the Historic Center for 7 years now and assures that the competition has never been so tough. He feels that there was a turning point when he increased the migration from Venezuela but now the outlook is more critical.
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There are colleagues who already have their client by the hand and another one arrives and tells him that he charges half
“The worst thing is now that everything about the coronavirus is over. There are colleagues who already have their client by the hand and another one arrives and tells him that he charges half“, states the sex worker, who complains about the arrival every day of young people who have caused prices to drop to 10,000 pesos and the area becomes dangerous.
Paola’s case is a reflection of what is happening with the increase in sex workers in Cartagena. The inhabitants of the historic center complain and even a Chilean tourist reported that her 14-year-old son was offered sex when he was walking through the walled city.
The experts clarify that the problem is not prostitution, that it is not illegal or penalized in the country, as admitted in the ruling T-629 of 2010 of the Constitutional Court, what is at the bottom is the danger that behind this increase camouflages crimes such as sexual exploitation, pimping with minors and the imposition of prostitution by force or threat.
(You may be interested: They demand to prohibit prostitution in the Center after a case of sex on the balcony)
For Elkin Castaño, a lawyer specializing in sexual crimes, the increase in prostitution in Cartagena worries precisely how it affects children.
This increase in prostitution has two main sources: migration from Venezuela and the increase in unemployment after the pandemic
“Despite the efforts of the authorities, in Cartagena the phenomenon of prostitution, which is worrying because this is always accompanied by the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. This increase in prostitution has two main sources: migration from Venezuela and the increase in unemployment after the pandemic“, explains Castaño.
For her part, Jhanet León, an official of the Ministry of Participation and Social Development, explains that the increase in prostitution in the city it is evident and that it has been moving to other sectors, which worries the authorities.
“Before the pandemic we could see sex workers on the corners of places like Plaza de los Coches and Plaza Santo Domingo. In those areas we could count a few dozen people. However, after the pandemic we have counted up to 100 sex workers only in the Plaza de los Coches“explains León.
(See also: Exhibitionist couple had sex on a balcony in the Center of Cartagena)
The official adds that the phenomenon has spread to areas such as the El Bosque neighborhood and the transport terminal, where there is no tourism but poverty.
“The vast majority of the women we spoke to during the operations are Venezuelan, and they explain to us that everything is basically out of necessity. The mothers of these children go to work and have two options: leave them with a relative or take them with them to the center. Then, there are children very vulnerable to falling into begging, child labor and other acts that violate their rights and that later can lead to sexual crimes, “he concludes.
According to data from the Renacer Foundation, after an investigation in which 70 children and adolescents were interviewed, it was concluded that 42 percent of the sample was a victim of sexual harassment or abuse and in all cases the victim was in a situation vulnerability, since he remained on the street, far from his legal representatives and did not have environments that guarantee his protection.
The national panorama
This problem has also become evident in Medellín, where merchants in areas such as El Parque Lleras, in El Poblado, have launched the alert of the increase of sex workers who roam the streets and try to enter restaurants in search of customers, mainly, foreign.
(In context: Exclusive area of El Poblado, from ‘pink zone’ to ‘tolerance zone’?)
It is evident that the phenomenon has increased due to pandemic issues, especially in the Venezuelan population
“It is evident that the phenomenon has increased due to issues of pandemic especially in the Venezuelan population that has entered the city and has determined the exercise of prostitution as a work option, “they said from the secretariat of Social Inclusion, Family and Human Rights of the Antioquia capital.
In addition, the entity pointed out that the possible causes of the increase in prostitution in the city are the lack of job opportunities, economic difficulties, significant income that they can receive from sex work, migration and the vocation of permanence of women in exercise prostitution In our country.
The increase in this phenomenon, especially in areas such as Lleras Park, Provenza and La 10 (Medellín’s pink zone), revived the debate to create a tolerance zone where sex work can be freely practiced and that does not affect anyone.
Trade unions and residents of these areas have demanded this measure, arguing that insecurity, sexual exploitation of minors and the anxiety that is felt at certain times in this important tourist site has increased. However, Mayor Daniel Quintero has already been emphatic that this is not an option.
(Also read: ‘No’ to the tolerance zone in Medellín, says the mayor and the debate heats up)
The same situation occurs in Cúcuta, the country’s important city on the border with Venezuela, where the community points out that the increase has been coming since September 2020, just when the first economic reactivation in the country took place.
“At first, like five years ago, this was a tremendous war between women from here and those from Venezuela. Clients came and were more interested in foreign women, because they were younger or because they were more talkative. During the pandemic it was difficult, but this year finances have improved, “says Orielso García, who runs one of the brothels.
The migration crisis in the neighboring country, it triggered hundreds of women to be forced into prostitution and thus be able to guarantee their daily livelihood and send money to their families.
The sex worker guild’s version
Fidelia Suárez, president of the Union of Sex Workers of Colombia (Sintrasexco), told EL TIEMPO that sex work has increased due to needs, but that they do not agree with the tolerance zones.
“These measures go against what sex workers need, which are more every day, especially after the pandemic. What is needed is regulation and freedom to do work. We need is that they stop persecuting and discriminating us. We are not hurting anyone, nor do we support scandals or exhibitionism, “said the union member.
(Also: Outrage over a woman walking in her underwear on the El Poblado road)
DUVÁN ÁLVAREZ DE LAS SALAS
Editor of NATION
On Twitter: @ Duván_AD
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