Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
TIJUANA (ZETA, Gerardo Zuniga Pacheco and Gerardo Acuña Rivera) - Prostitution without control...Only a few people are registered with the health institution. In bars, clubs and even in the streets, women and men are engaged in the sex trade. Police officers, midwives, and owners of establishments exploit them. They pay fees on all sides, but the Government does not recognize nor regulate them. Prostitution in Baja California Sur is seen for two aspects. On the one hand and openly, in bars and at table dance clubs; on the other, those who are living in an underworld of the sex industry without any established pattern, and therefore, effective programs by health control institutions. In his last visit to the State, the National Commissioner for Human Rights, Delia Hernández García, recognized that the sex trade “occurs on a large scale mainly in the border States and where there is tourism”. In Mexico, the sex trade is not classified as an offense, if a person does not benefit economically. Data delivered to ZETA by staff of the Sudcaliforniano Institute of Women, shows prostitution is more present in recent years, especially in the resorts of Los Cabos and La Paz, due to the demand of foreigners and tourists. However, studies lack a real picture about the number of people and conditions of how they exercise their services. For example, in the municipality of La Paz, the roll includes only 40 women who work mainly in three nightclubs. The Ministry of Health maintains a registration of the sexoservidoras who come to make their health checks each week. However, this figure far from reflects reality, as dozens of girls and women are prostituting themselves in table dances. What is most worrying is that students and housewives do so, discreetly in the casino areas of La Paz, Los Cabos and Comondú, as well as in bars and nightclubs. ZETA had access to information on HIV and TB program in Baja California Sur, and discovered that the total registered sexoservidoras in La Paz represents 5 per cent of the total number of prostitutes. The real figure - which does not appear in the official reports - reaches 800 sexoservidores including women, men and transgenders. Few health controls are used because the premises owners don’t inform the sexoservidoras they are working in health care. Another issue is the business of table dances or desnudistas bars, where the girls are ‘dancers’ or ‘artists’. The Ministry of Health never accepted prostitution as a subject under their program of control, despite the fact that public health is being put at risk. The majority of the young prostitutes originate from neighboring states such as Sonora, Sinaloa and Guerrero, who come to southern Baja for a season and then migrate elsewhere. The place responsible for providing permission to offer sexual services is at the Town Hall of La Paz. However, there it is also unknown in how many places are operating. “We only issue licenses for the sale of alcohol, not for brothels”, said Alderman Manuel López Martínez. It is believed that in the State Capital there are about 100 places with nightclub licenses where prostitution could be exercised. “No one is secret: we see it all, and we can’t ignore it as something else. We are seeing it in Los Cabos with teenagers and children, the most vulnerable, and there is a protocol of how to deal with that,” said an employee of the Attorney for the Defence of Minors. "I remember a girl of 17 years who was offered 30 pesos per day in high tourist season to service millionaire clients on board of a yacht," explained a worker who has handled many of these cases. Despite the statements of the employee, the Government of Baja California doesn’t see a serious problem of child sexual exploitation present in Mexico. In chapter II, article 214 of the Criminal Code of BCS provides child prostitution as matter of corruption and exploitation of children, making it difficult to identify how many of the cases properly correspond to sexual prostitution of others as begging, drug abuse or unlawful gang association. According to information from the Attorney General of Justice of the State, six previous inquiries were initiated in 2010 for information about this offense. In the same chapter, articles 233 and 234 correspond to the trafficking of minors. It is a crime to leave the minor in custody of a third party in exchange for money. Although it is not punishable if nothing is given in return. From 2005 to 2010, there have been four previous inquiries for trafficking in minors. Through those who profit from child sex tourism is the way to get crime back under control. The average rate of a prostitute in a bar or table dance is 1,300 pesos ($112) for 30 minutes - of which 300 go straight into the pockets of the ‘dealer’ of the place by renting a private room. When it comes to exotic dances, there is a payment received and a slice goes to the owner of the establishment: 100 pesos ($9) per three minutes. 50 percent for the owner of the premises. Regardless of everything, the owner of the bar or brothel also earns revenue by the sale of alcoholic beverages or food to customers. Interviewed besides dancers are those engaged in offering other more intimate services. It was assured a good night when they earn 3,000 ($258) pesos for four sexual encounters; many of the females are local and range between 40 and 50, but not all provide sex services. Hotel owners and taxi drivers also derive income from the sex industry, until the police arrive to extort money from the so-called skaters (those who offer their services on the street), mostly transvestites and homosexuals. In La Paz it is possible to find those who, to avoid being picked up and arrested pay police $50 or more. In this business, anything goes as well as violating a new law that prohibits the publication of advertisements in the newspapers offering sex, erotic massages or prostitution. There is now some review and regulating of these classified ads, but to date they are still published in some local media. No authority or mechanisms of the social system regulate the treatment sexoservidores should receive from the companies that serve. The sexoservidoras are constantly harassed and almost none complain, for fear of their bosses or being without work. From intimidation by their contractor, under the pretext of analyzing what will offer to its clients, to threats and wishes of owners of the premises without resistance. Women who offer sex in the street are known as skaters. They are most at risk and helpless in the darkness of night. A lack of regulation by authorities on the subject of prostitution also aggravates the situation of public health by not tracking how many people exercise prostitution. The risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases is increasing. In these conditions, prostitution is a ‘negociazo’ (business negotiation) for Baja California Sur, in which everyone wins: authorities, owners of brothels, tourists, men and women. “They're 1,300 for half an hour. There are rooms”, is the response of April, who was asked about her fee for sexual services. She’s a 30s thirties beauty who started in the sex trade at age 21. She started in Guadalajara, worked ten years in Tijuana and currently lives in La Paz. Dancing to the rhythm of the music, she is concerned with a caesarean section scar in her womb and the amount of photos we can take. She began as waitress in a bar, already divorced and a daughter then four years old. In Jalisco, she worked in the best striptease places and nightclubs. She met comedians, television stars and singers of Northern bands. Moving from place to place, April arrived in Tijuana, where she lived a decade and saw the risks of working with men who believe that the sexoservidoras belonged to them as human beings, when they are simply buying a service. She says she had classmates who have not been seen again. "We are exposed to physical and verbal violence or as in many cases be killed", says in her interview with ZETA. She is sure the most important of her work “does not relate to the people, because it must be displayed with cold sentiments”. April acknowledges that, thanks to her work, has been able to pay tuition for her three sons, of whom she feels proud. “My sons think nothing bad. No, I never made them think their mom worked peeling chickens in a factory at night, when the reality is different.” She also claims that in her spare time she is writing the story of her life, “which has been very sad” due to the prejudices of people who judged her as a sexual object rather than an individual. “We are dedicated to a profession that is not easy, because it people think it must be easy… believe that we must live and let live others. Don’t think they are doing harm (to society). I believe we must also pay attention to other kinds of situations, such as family violence", she shares with ZETA, but someone is at the door with insistence. We are grateful to April, who is lost between the neon of a business, waiting for a client.