Online or on the street: Sex workers in Mexico demand employment rights

I have nothing to account for the last 14 years of work, unlike the rest of the working class.

Since the pandemic and the ensuing cost-of-living crisis, she has seen a boom in online sex work, but like her fellow sex workers, federal laws bar her from Social Security and other labor rights.

So on May 7, a group of sex workers launched CLaP!, a first-of-its-kind coalition calling for the decriminalization of sex work, its formal recognition as work, and access to social security for those who work online and in person. .

For Lane, one of the coalition’s founders, recognition of rights is urgent.

[Sex workers] have the same needs as any other working-class group, but with special risks and an endless series of violence, said Indira Solis, a human and labor rights lawyer at ProDESC, an organization that supports the new coalition.


How Japanese women are driven into debt and sex work by host clubs

How Japanese women are driven into debt and sex work by host clubs

Now the group is appealing to potential members online and on the streets of the capital, aiming to build enough momentum for sex workers to win long-sought labor rights.

To date, about 42 workers have joined CLaP!, according to Solis.

[The coalition] recognizes sex work as a life project, as a personal choice that we don’t need to escape from, Lane said.

In Mexico City, sex work was legally recognized as unpaid work in 2013 and decriminalized in 2019 after three decades of protests against police harassment and abuse by organized crime.

But workers say these two legal victories have not brought safer working conditions or any of the standard labor rights.

Sex workers in Mexico City, whether they work online or on the streets, commonly face discrimination from the police, hospitals, prosecutor’s offices and ambulances, according to the latest survey on sex work in Mexico City.

Respondents said that recognizing sex work as work could reduce everyday discrimination, increase access to health services and help reduce police violence.

Efforts are already being made in other Latin American countries to gain social protection for sex workers.

Take Colombia, where the first initiative regulating access to rights, pensions and health care was discussed last week.

Eli, who is identified only by his first name, started creating explicit content for social media platforms and websites like OnlyFans two years ago.

But without Social Security, he has lost public health care, retirement benefits and housing.

We live under certain censorship. If I’m looking to rent an apartment, for example, I can’t say I’m a sex worker for fear of being denied access, said the 36-year-old, who is helping CLaP! recruit new members.

Presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum shakes hands during her campaign rally in Mexico City. Providing social security for digital platform workers is one of Sheinbaum’s campaign promises. Photo: AP

In the past two years, lawmakers have backed a slew of initiatives to bring Social Security to gig workers, a fast-growing sector that includes everything from food to sex work.

However, the efforts have not been translated into law.

Providing digital platform workers with social insurance is also a campaign promise Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico’s leading presidential candidate. Her plan, however, leaves out sex workers, focusing only on drivers and delivery workers.

For ClaP! members, this is a familiar snub, as their work is generally not considered real work by their peers.

Furthermore, they face an uphill battle to be recognized as a trade union, due to the lack of contracts or invoices to prove their income.

The violence experienced by other workers is no different from what we experience. The big difference is that no one will ever question whether what they do is working, Lane said.

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