Prostitution in Costa Rica

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Prostitution in Costa Rica is not illegal but many of the activities surrounding it are illegal,[1] as the law forbids promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another, and therefore pimping, brothels, or prostitution rings are illegal.[2][3][4] Prostitution is common and is practiced openly throughout the country, particularly in popular tourism destinations.[5][6][7][8] Websites list detailed locations and hotels that allow prostitutes. These online fraternities provide forums for sex tourists to compare experiences and act as a guide for future sex tourists.

Child prostitution[edit]

Costa Rica is a destination for child sex tourism; numerous children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation at the hands of tourists. Erika Linares, a lawyer with the Latin American Institute for Health Prevention, a group that works with prostitutes, said: "Sexual tourists look for two things: impunity and anonymity. Costa Rica offers both." Nevertheless, most of the demand for child prostitution comes from local Costa Rican men; it is a home-grown problem.[9]

Child prostitution is widespread. Street children in the urban areas of San José, Limon, and Puntarenas are particularly at risk.[4] Costa Rica is a transit and destination point for minors and women trafficked most often for commercial sexual exploitation. Most trafficking victims originate from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.[4]

Since 2004, the government and the tourism industry have implemented several initiatives to curb child prostitution, including education campaigns among tourist industry workers to report any illicit activity regarding minors.[10] Anyone convicted of buying sex from a minor can suffer a prison term of up to 10 years.[11]

Despite attempts by Costa Rican authorities to improve the situation in Costa Rica, their efforts have had little to no effect. Such efforts were the Law Against Organized Crime in 2009, and the Law for Protection of Victims and Witnesses in 2010. Immigration and the District Attorney’s office assert that efforts thus far have been inadequate, as there have only been two human trafficking cases ending in a strict sentence since the passing of these laws. Lawmakers have since redoubled their efforts, unanimously approving the Law Against Human Trafficking, which would raise the maximum penalty of human trafficking to 16 years.[12]


  1. ^ Asamblea Legislativa de la República de Costa Rica. "Código Penal, Ley No. 4573 de 1970 y reformas hasta 26 de febrero de 2002" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-03-17. see SECCIÓN III: Corrupción, proxenetismo, rufianería (Articles 167 to 172).
  2. ^ "Promoción de la prostitución: Unos 130 sitios de internet promueven el turismo sexual de Costa Rica" (in Spanish). 2004-12-07. Retrieved 2007-03-17. ...prostitution is not penalized in the country, but a third-party soliciting clients for a prostitute (proxenetismo) is committing a crime (free translation from Spanish)
  3. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Costa Rica". U.S. State Department. Retrieved 2007-09-28. ...There are no specific laws against sex tourism, which was growing 
  4. ^ a b c "2008 Human Rights Report: Costa Rica". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 7 May 2009. 
  5. ^ "Unos 130 sitios de internet promueven turismo sexual Costa Rica" (in Spanish). La Nación. 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  6. ^ Otto Vargas (2004-12-04). "Agencias ofrecen en el exterior damas para vacaciones eróticas en Costa Rica" (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  7. ^ Ángela Ávalos (2008-06-2204). "Cien personas escapan de redes de tráfico de almas en Jacó" (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved 2008-06-22.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ "Costa Rica Draws Sex Trade". The Miami Herald. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  9. ^ Innocence for Sale Mother Jones 2000-10-10.
  10. ^ Wright, Phillip (2004-06-18). "Sex tourism: Lessons learned in Costa Rica". BBC News (BBC News). Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  11. ^ Kovaleski, Serge F. (2000-01-02). "Child Sex Trade Rises In Central America". Washington Post Foreign Service (Washington Post Foreign Service). Archived from the original on 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  12. ^ "Human Trafficking Continues in Costa Rica, as Lawmakers Take a Stand". Inside Costa Rica. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 

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