Mexico City To Decriminalise Sex Work In Bid To Fight Sex Trafficking

In a bid to crack down on a sex trafficking industry that traps thousands of women and children, Mexico is about to decriminalise sex work in the capital.

Lawmakers in Mexico City Congress voted 38-0 last Friday in favour of a bill that will remove a line in civic law allowing sex workers to be arrested or fined if neighbours complain about them.

Temistocles Villanueva, a local representative with the Morena Party (a centre-left party) said the new law recognised that people had the right to engage in sex work.

"It's a first step that has lead to the regulation of sex work, to fight human trafficking and strengthen the rights of sex workers," Villanueva said.

The decision came in time for International Sex Workers Day on June 2. On Twitter, Villanueva said that discrimination of "those who perform this non-salaried work" must be eliminated.

Sex work is legal under federal Mexican law, but each of the 31 states has enacted its own laws and policies related to the industry.

Sex workers hold a sign that reads in Spanish "We're all whores" during a gathering to mark International Sex Workers Day in Mexico City, Mexico, Sunday, June 2, 2019. Source: AAP Photos

Mexico is also home to a vast and lucrative sex trafficking network, but the data on the numbers of individuals currently trapped in the industry is difficult to reliably attain.

Numbers cited by a former congresswoman in 2012 estimate that around 800,000 women and 20,000 children are trafficked into the industry annually.

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In sex trafficking research, countries are defined as either 'sending' (where children are sent from), 'transit' (where children are moved through) or 'receiving' (where children are moved to).

Mexico is all three.

It is the world's main propagator of online child pornography and its child sex tourism has earned it the title of "Latin American Thailand".

Drug cartels are largely responsible for this trafficking and make an estimated $US 10 billion a year from the trade.

Sex workers hold a gathering to mark International Sex Workers Day in Mexico City, Mexico, Sunday, June 2, 2019. Source: AAP.

Human rights advocates have long argued that criminalising sex work sends the problem of trafficking further underground and severely endangers people who are trapped in the industry.

Eduardo Santillan, another Morena representative from Mexico City, said that Congress now has the job of trying to consolidate the decriminalisation of voluntary sex work with anti-trafficking policy to protect those involuntarily caught in the industry.

"We think that the big challenge of this congress will be making both of these fundamental principles compatible," he said.