Asociación de Trabajadoreas Sexuales Mujeres del Sur, Peru
Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Mujeres del Sur, founded in 2004, is a self organised group of sex workers from Arequipa, a city in the South of Peru. Las Mujeres del Sur addresses the violence against sex workers, incuding police brutality and extortion. They demand recognition of sex work as work, so they can enjoy protection of their labour rights, and have access to health care.
‘In 2004 the police arrested a sex worker who was six months pregnant. When she refused to pay the standard bribe, the police officers kicked her out of a moving vehicle. She hit the pavement and was badly injured. She lost her baby’, says Ana Luz Mamani Silva. ‘For me, that was the final straw. The endless abuse and extortion of sex workers like she and I faced in Arequipa had to stop. Violent pimps and their gangs threaten us, take our money and beat us up when they don’t get what they want, mostly with impunity. They should be tackled, not tolerated by the police.’
Together with her colleagues, she started the Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Mujeres del Sur to fight for their rights. They contacted the city authorities to investigate the complaints of the sex workers about the violence by the police and demanded police protection. They also shared their views on HIV/AIDS and health policies with the local authorities.
Ana Luz Mamani Silva: ‘Our work has given us more exposure, but the effects have not all been positive. In a Catholic country like Peru, we anger people just by speaking out. Regularly, we receive anonymous death threats at our office. But we have to be strong and persevere, because we deserve labour rights. Sex work is simply work, and it is just one aspect of our lives. We are mothers, sisters, wives and friends too, just like any other human being. We have to overcome our own fears and insecurity, so we can be proud and assertive citizens.’
The Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Mujeres del Sur aims to become the very first sex workers’ labour union in Peru, bringing together sex workers from over all over the country. The group is training its staff to make this happen and to continue working for an environment where the human rights of sex workers are respected, as women, as trans persons and as workers. The organisation also educates the public[www.youtube.com/watch?v=R877-OZNyE8] and cooperates with sex worker organisations and women’s labour unions in South America, like Mama Cash grantee ATRAHDOM in Guatemala.
Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Mujeres del Sur received grants by Mama Cash in 2009 and 2010.