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Costa Rica lawmaker to promote bill improving sex workers’ rights

June 2, 2015

Broad Front Party lawmaker Ligia Fallas Rodríguez has offered to assist a group of sex workers in Costa Rica draft and submit legislation to improve sex workers’ rights at public health agencies.

Fallas on Monday met at the Legislative Assembly with representatives of Asociación La Sala, a group that requested her assistance in submitting a bill to allow sex workers to apply for insurance with the Social Security System, or Caja, and a special regime at the Labor Ministry for regulating vacation and sick leave.

Asociación La Sala has been active for 21 years and brings together a group of some 400 sex workers from the capital’s “Zona Roja” (red-light district). Group leaders will meet with Fallas in coming days to discuss the details of the bill’s drafting, Ordóñez said.

Fallas said she agrees with the group’s goals and believes social security rights should cover the women’s children, too.

Currently sex workers can apply for self-employed insurance with the Caja. The agency establishes a monthly fee according to monthly income as reported by each person.

Caja spokesman José Mairena said that sex workers can apply for this type of insurance without stating their occupation —one of the group’s main concerns. Currently the lowest monthly fee for self-employed workers is about ₡12,000 ($22), he said.

Association leaders acknowledged the existance of this option but say that many sex workers prefer not to apply for this type of insurance because those who offer sex services at night clubs are reluctant or embarrassed to attend a Caja facility, where they are frequently discriminated against.

The group’s president, Nubia Ordóñez Ugalde, said their biggest concern is to provide social security rights mainly for sex workers aged 60 and older, who have little chance to opt for self-employed insurance or a pension because of their low income.

“We are very concerned about elderly sex workers, who struggle to get clients because of their age and work in very precarious conditions. These women usually don’t earn enough for a daily meal, and they are unable to pay any monthly fee, no matter how low it is. We are mostly aiming to benefit older sex workers, currently working on the streets, so they can hold non-contributory coverage with the Caja and a state pension,” Ordóñez told The Tico Times.

International Sex Workers Day is celebrated around the world on June 2 to remember the date in 1975 when 100 sex workers occupied Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, to express their anger about their criminalized and exploitative living conditions.

The church was brutally raided and cleared by police forces and the action sparked a national movement.

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