Mexico’s State-Run Brothels Show Benefits of Making Prostitution Legal

Mexico’s State-Run Brothels Show Benefits of Making Prostitution Legal
Business Insider
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October 29, 2013

The Women of Juarez – Short documentary on the women behind the “job.” (luis saenz)

Editor’s note: The following excerpt is from the book “Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business,” and reveals what life is like in the Galactic Zone — a state-run brothel in Mexico.

Legalizing Prostitution: From Illicit Vice to Lawful Business
by Ronald Weitzer
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Readers may not be aware that prostitution is legal and regulated in 13 of Mexico’s 31 states. A study by anthropologist Patty Kelly sheds light on one such system: the Galactic Zone outside Tuxtla in the state of Chiapas. Given the small scale of the Zone and Tuxtla’s population of half a million, there remains plenty of illegal prostitution in the area.

Moreover, some of the Galactic Zone’s regulations are obtrusive, such as the mandatory health card that includes the worker’s name, photo, and health status and must be renewed every three months (workers are routinely tested for syphilis and HIV).

Yet the Zone’s form of legal prostitution also has some benefits. First, the Zone appears to have broad popular support. In Tuxtla, “prostitution is generally accepted (and sometimes valued) as long as it is confined and invisible,” which is precisely what the Galactic Zone accomplishes.

Second, Zone workers have a “great deal of freedom and exercise control over their work.”

They alone decide when to work and for how long, who they will serve, and their rates; they come and go as they please; and many take extended leaves to visit family in other parts of Mexico. Almost all of the 140 women working in the Zone are independent, free of pimps.

Third, while prostitution is hardly lucrative for Zone workers, on a good day the women can earn as much as 10 times the daily minimum wage in Chiapas. It is not survival sex: the workers are able to buy consumer goods that they otherwise could not afford, such as nice clothing, mobile phones, jewelry, and items for their children.

Fourth, working in this arena helps to bolster the women’s sense of control over their lives and their self-esteem. Many began working in the Zone to support their children after escaping an unhappy, abusive, or violent relationship with a husband. The Zone allowed them to break free of dependency on their husbands and, more generally, to “find in prostitution a life better than the one they might have had.”

There are unpleasant aspects of this highly controlled type of prostitution, but the net effect of working in the Galactic Zone is positive for the women: control over working conditions, lack of coercion, economic advancement, and enhanced self-esteem.

Read the rest at Business Insider

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