Formally the sale or purchase of sex in Buenos Aires is not illegal; but in practice, sex workers are criminalized through a range of laws that punish related activities, and which fail to distinguish between consensual sex work and human trafficking.
Sex workers are often arbitrarily stopped on the streets by police and some are subjected to repeated fines and probation. It is unlawful for the police and prosecutors in Buenos Aires to consider an individual’s appearance, dress or manners when enforcing a law criminalizing communications around sex work in public. However, this type of profiling frequently occurs— with the police specifically targeting transgender sex workers in their operations.
“He [a client] paid me and I was about to get out of the car when he grabbed me by the neck and cut me with a knife. I gave him all the money I had and my cell phone, and he let me go,” Laura, a street-based sex worker told Amnesty International.
She said she did not report this violence or theft to the police because she felt it would have been a waste of time: “[They] won’t listen to me because I’m a street worker.”
Sex workers operating from private accommodation are often subject to violent and lengthy inspections and raids by the police in Buenos Aires, as well as extortion and bribes.
Sex workers in Buenos Aires also reported challenges accessing health services, including immense stigma and discrimination.
“We didn’t have any real access to health care services because whenever we went to hospitals we were laughed at or the last ones to be attended to by doctors,” one former sex worker who is transgender told Amnesty International.
Amnesty International found this has led some sex workers to avoid services entirely.