Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And What About the Women?

The seemingly endless stream of stories about the U.S. Secret Service agents' antics with prostitutes in Cartagena have detailed:

How many men were involved, and how many women. 

How much they paid.

What Cartagena's brothels are like. 

The impacts on the agents' careers. 

But nobody's asked about the women whom the agents paid for sex:

A story in today's New York Times details the experience of one of the prostitutes, whose pay dispute with an agent she'd just slept with. The woman comes off as assertive, but also vulnerable: she almost left without payment, said that the episode had left her anxious and crying and had made her decide to abandon Cartagena.

The reporter apparently didn't ask how the woman had become a prostitute, altho her proud self-description as an 'escort' suggests she did it voluntarily, as does her price - several times the monthly minimum wage for a single night's services.

El Tiempo also cites rumors that some of the prostitutes were minors, which is of course illegal in Colombia. The ICBF, the child protective authority, says it will investigate.

According to the U.S. State Department's 2010 Human Trafficking Report "Colombia is a major source country for women and girls subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution." Undoubtedly, there's also domestic exploitation, as this report called Human Trafficking in Colombia: A Modern Slavery says. But, according to the report, some women who migrate within Colombia to work as prostitutes do so "on a voluntary and free way: they can decide the length of stay, type and number of clients to meet and work schedules."

I've also interviewed several prostitutes who appeared to be satisfied with their work, at which  person with limited education can make much more money than she could in a shop or as a street vendor.

When prostitution - or just about anything else - is prohibited, it just gets pushed underground, where prostitutes become even more vulnerable and fearful of seeking help.

Perhaps the best solution is for prostitution to remain legal and regulated, with assurances that women who want to leave 'The world's oldest profession' have the option of doing so.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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