Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'd be interested in what we all think about this:

Thanks to the fine folks at Yahoo News:

Prostitutes sew lips together in Bolivia protest

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Prostitutes in the Bolivian city of El Alto sewed their lips together on Wednesday as part of a hunger strike to demand that the mayor reopen brothels and bars ordered closed after violent protests by residents last week.

"We are fighting for the right to work and for our families' survival," Lily Cortez, leader of the El Alto Association of Nighttime Workers, told local television.

"Tomorrow we will bury ourselves alive if we are not immediately heard. The mayor will have his conscience to answer to if there are any grave consequences, such as the death of my comrades," she said, surrounded by about 10 prostitutes who had sewn their lips together with thread.

Some 30 other women were shown fasting inside a medical clinic nearby.

Mayor Fanor Nava told local radio he would not reopen the brothels and bars closed after city residents fed up with underage drinking and crime stormed the red-light district in El Alto, an impoverished city just north of La Paz.

Prostitution in Bolivia is legal but pimping is outlawed.

Student activists who want the bars and brothels permanently shut down were also on a hunger strike, along with the leaders of an association representing bars, restaurants and karaoke establishments.

"It's not only us owners and the sex workers who are affected, there are thousands of waiters, cooks, bartenders, taxi drivers and street vendors who will be without income," said Ramiro Orellana, spokesman for the business group.

El Alto is one of the largest urban areas in Bolivia, with nearly 1 million inhabitants, mostly Aymara and Quechua Indians.

Bolivian sex workers taking extreme measures to demand the right to work? student activists and sex workers in dueling hunger strikes?

the mind reels. as it should. comments are, as usual, wide open. I want to know what you all think, whatever side of the issue you fall on.

This is awful.

Obviously, if the Bolivian economy and infrastructure were in order - this wouldn't have been an issue in the first place. But, we live in an insane world.

If I was a student (this is all purely theoretical, I'm not Bolivian - can't speak for these people at all), I would go on a hunger strike to demand better working conditions for the people involved. To demand a clean-up of the streets, unionization, and so on. Simply barring their activities is obviously hurting them.

Bolivia's law does not allow pimping - great. People should be working *with* that law to create better conditions for the women and meen who need to eat *now*.

Obviously, this is a simplistic answer. But, since you asked...
well, I am wondering what the proper pro-woman anti-prostitution position on this would be.

It seems to be that being pro-woman in this case would necessarily mean allowing them to do their thing.

I mean, if women are willing to SEW THEIR OWN LIPS SHUT in order to make their point, that seems to be a pretty strong and authentic pro-sexworker statement. but how can an antiprostitution feminist take that statement seriously, and be pro-woman about it, and still remain antiprostitution in any consistent way?

and of course, no one would dare say that the voices of Bolivian prostitutes matter less than the voices of American prostitutes, regardless of what those voices might be saying.
and I have not seen this story blogged anywhere else.

is it a hoax?

wildly inaccurate?

simply false?

I actually was going to blog about it, but couldn't think of anything coherent to say beyond "whoa."
Being from Yahoo!, I sincerely doubt it's false. Google tells me TIME and the Washington Post have also covered it, so.

The TIME article also says this:

As of Wednesday morning, Bolivia's "night workers" are on strike. Up to 35,000 prostitutes across the country have refused to report for the medical checkups required every 20 days to legally work the streets. By continuing to serve clients without ensuring they're disease-free, the sex workers' action raises the risk to public health. It comes in response to attacks in the city of El Alto last week in which citizens burned brothels and beat sex workers in protest against legal prostitution.

"We refuse to be STD-tested until we can work free from harassment," says Lily Cortez, president of the Night Workers of El Alto, the low-income city that borders La Paz, Bolivia's seat of government.

The rampage began after citizens demanded that brothels and bars be located at least 3,200 feet away from schools. Within 48 hours, angry mobs had taken matters into their own hands, burning more than 30 establishments. Hundreds of women and transvestites were forced to strip while their belongings were torched; dozens were beaten and mutilated as the police stood by and watched. "It was something we needed to do," says El Alto resident Roberta Quispe Mayta. "Now our husbands will behave better and the prostitutes will leave.",8599,1675348,00.html?imw=Y


The [sex worker] strikers see their action as part of a larger battle to make society understand that the sex workers are poor people struggling to survive, and not prostitution entrepreneurs. "People think the point of our organization is expand prostitution in Bolivia," says ONAEM's Perez. "In fact, we want the opposite. Our ideal world is one free of the economic desperation that forces women into this business." But in the meantime, her group "will fight tooth and nail for the rights we deserve."

One wonders what the hell the student activists are protesting - though I see no mention of them in other articles. Most of the slash-and-burners seem to be the morality crusaders who want to blame the prostitutes for mens' infidelity.

"People think the point of our organization is expand prostitution in Bolivia," says ONAEM's Perez. "In fact, we want the opposite. Our ideal world is one free of the economic desperation that forces women into this business."

that's interesting. so it's not really a pro-sexworker thing, at least according to that speaker.

also interesting is that no one seems to be interested in any sort of alternative occupation, neither the government nor the folks doing the tearing down/burning/public humiliation/harming of people.
Well, in a way it is pro-sex-worker, in that she wants sex workers to have the freedom to support themselves. She just also wants them to have the freedom to get out of there, and go somewhere better.

I'd classify it as more like "doesn't believe that sex work can be a career choice, but wants sex workers to be safe, paid, and unthreatened".
If a woman is retarded enough to sew her own lips shut, would you really want to stick anything in her mouth, anyway?
If a woman is retarded enough to sew her own lips shut, would you really want to stick anything in her mouth, anyway?

I take issue with your use of the word "retarded."

not to mention your tone.

rephrase more succinctly and respectfully or beat it.

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