Prostitution in Costa Rica

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Prostitution in Costa Rica is legal. Costa Rica's legal system is based in Roman Law rather than Common Law, therefore, for prostitution to be illegal or legal it has to be stated as such in a penal code, and it is not.--> 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]

Child prostitution[edit]

Costa Rica is a destination for child sex tourism, even though the main source of clients was local, as reported by Tapiana Tregar, CEO of Fundacion Procal (a local NGO attempting to prevent and treat violence against women and children) in a 2000 article. In the same article, Bruce Harris, regional director of Casa Alianza (the Latin American branch of international child care agency Covenant House) said that; even though child prostitution was identified across Central America, the problem seemed to be more "out of control" in Costa Rica. Exact numbers of the children involved were unknown at the time, and the government of Costa Rica had not gathered detailed statistics.[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]

In 2016, the phenomenon of fathers "renting" their daughters as child prostitutes has been called common in Limón Province, but occurred throughout the country. The Ministry of Health of Costa Rica regretted that some citizens of Costa Rica do not denounce this practice.[13]

Transsexual prostitutes[edit]

Work areas of trans women prostitutes in the year 2016, in San José, Costa Rica (in red)

According to "Transvida", an organisation which is dedicated to defend the rights of the transsexual population, trans women who are sex workers in San José, mostly work in 2 defined areas, in 2016. One of those areas centers around "Parque Morazán" and the Costa Rica Institute of Technology and the other one around the "Ministry Of Public Works & Transport" and the Hospital Clínica Bíblica.[14]

In June 2016, trans women who are sex workers in San José have denunciated insults and violence (such as attacks involving stones and BB gun pellets) committed against them, in a local newspaper. The newspaper article included pictures showing multiple BB gun injuries (pellets penetrated inside the bodies), as well as video interviews with the trans women sex workers.[14]

In another newspaper article, which appeared in the same edition of the newspaper, it was made clear that, since 2015, there had also been 14 complaints filed with the Judicial Investigation Department against officers for abusing their authority against trans women. Twelve of those accusations were against officials of the "Fuerza Pública" (an policing instance); one against the Judicial Investigation Department; and one against the municipal police.[14]


  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. 
  13. ^ Mata, Esteban (26 July 2016). "Niñas son 'alquiladas' con fines sexuales por sus padres". La Nación. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c "Transsexuals deal with stones and bullets when they offer sex - Transsexuals report an increase of attacks in the streets of San José [Costa Rica] & 14 police officers accused of abusing authority against trans women". Translated by Vincent Verheyen (source: La Nación). 28 June 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016. 

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