Prostitutes in Argentina are taking an unprecedented step – calling for a charity that represents them to be given full union status. As World Aids Day approaches, Metro speaks to the woman behind the move…
‘I’m not ashamed. I’m truly proud of what I do,’ says Elena Reynaga. ‘Through my work, I created possibilities for my children, opportunities I didn’t have myself. My children went to school, got jobs. I have nothing to be ashamed of.’
Reynaga was a prostitute who spent the 30 years since she turned 19 working in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. She has now left the streets behind to lead Redtrasex (Latin American and Caribbean Sex Workers Network) and Ammar (Female Sex Workers’ Association of Argentina).
By Niresha Velmurugiah——
I recently attended a workshop by Vancouver-based sex worker support and advocacy agency, PACE, on providing health care for sex workers. PACE is a sex-worker driven organization, and the guidelines at the workshop are based on firsthand experiences with service providers. I left the session content with the progressive care for workers in such a marginalized profession. Then my friend remarked, “Isn’t it messed up that treating people with respect has to be such a revolutionary idea?”
The advice from the workshop was a sad reflection on the status quo. Don’t treat sex workers like they’re dirty. Acknowledge the interplay between sex work and drug use, and how intertwined the two often go. Don’t brush off sex work as illegitimate. Don’t talk down to sex workers or treat them like they need saving. Respect the terms sex workers use to describe their profession. The underlying themes of respect and sensitivity to the context of a person’s life are basics of health care provision. There is, however, a discrepancy between theory and practice, because current health care fails sex workers.