Prostitution in Mexico
Prostitution in Mexico is legal under Federal Law. Each of the 31 states enacts its own prostitution laws and policies. Thirteen of the states of Mexico allow and regulate prostitution. Prostitution involving minors under 18 is illegal. Some Mexican cities have enacted "tolerance zones" ("zonas de tolerancia") which allow regulated prostitution and function as red light districts. In Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of the state of Chiapas, there is a state-run brothel at the Zona Galáctica. In most parts of the country, pimping is illegal, although pimp-worker relationships still occur, sometimes under female pimps called "madrotas". The government provides shelter for former prostitutes.
In 1885, during the authoritarian regime of Porfirio Díaz of the late nineteenth century, regulations in the forms of monthly quotas, medical examinations, and photographic documentation were imposed upon prostitutes. Regulatory practices were most severe on the eve of the Mexican export-mining economic collapse, and had been met with backlash from women's rights groups in Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Veracruz.
According to a 1908 study, economic concerns were the main reason for turning to the sex trade in Porfirian Mexico, at which time 15 to 30 per cent of Mexico City's young female population was employed in the sex trade.
During the Mexican Revolution and civil war, supplies to the cities were severely disrupted and many women prostituted themselves for food in the period 1913–1915. In the post-war period of reconstruction and consolidation during the 1920s and 1930s, many impoverished women in the cities turned to prostitution.
In translocal border cities such as Mexicali in Baja California, local brothels and vaudeville theatres became spaces for American tourists, Asian laborers, and Mexican-American sex workers to intermingle in the 1930s. In the mid-2000s American men make up a significant clientele sector for sex workers in border cities, specifically Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana—more than two-thirds of female sex workers in these two cities had had at least one male U.S. client in the prior two months.
Today, it can be argued that neoliberal reforms instituted in the late 1990s under the PRI administration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari—including the signing of NAFTA in 1994—incubated adverse economic conditions that caused the migration of indigenous women from southern Mexico to northern border locales to find work in the sex trade or in maquiladoras.
Child prostitution is a problem in the country, and Mexico continues to be a destination for pedophiles who engage in child sex tourism. Mexico is one of the leading hot spots of child sexual exploitation, along with Thailand, Cambodia, Colombia, India, and Brazil.
A study by UNICEF Mexico and the DIF/National System for Integral Family Development estimated that more than 16,000 children in Mexico were involved in prostitution in June 2000. A 2004 study by researcher Elena Azaola estimated that some 17,000 children under the age of 18 are victims of the sex trade in Mexico; the State System of Integral Family Development (DIF) reported that more than 20,000 minors were victims of child prostitution in Mexico in 2005, an increase since the year 2000.
Out of Mexico City's 13,000 street children, 95% have had at least one sexual encounter with an adult (many of them through prostitution). In the impoverished southern state of Chiapas, children are sold for $100 to $200, according to human rights groups. Chiapas is considered one of the worst places in the world in terms of child prostitution. Poverty forces many rural children, with or without their families, to migrate to urban cities to seek out employment, some of them also migrate across the border to the U.S. These children have little or no parental supervision and many are lured into the sex industry or abducted by child trafficking gangs.
Child sex tourism persists in Mexico, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, and in northern border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Some NGOs alleged that some corrupt local officials allowed commercial sexual exploitation of children to occur. Many child sex tourists are from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, though some are Mexican citizens. Casa Alianza director Manuel Capellin is quoted as saying "More than 16,000 children are sexually exploited through networks involving foreigners and military, police, government and business officials."
Mexico is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking. Groups considered most vulnerable to human trafficking in Mexico include women, children, indigenous persons, persons with mental and physical disabilities, migrants, and LGBTI individuals. Mexican women and children, and to a lesser extent men and transgender individuals, are exploited in sex trafficking in Mexico and the United States. Transgender Mexicans in commercial sex are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Residents at some substance addiction rehabilitation centers and women’s shelters have been subjected to sex trafficking.
Young female migrants recounted being robbed, beaten, and raped by members of criminal gangs and then forced to work in table dance bars or as prostitutes under threat of further harm to them or their families. The majority of non-Mexican trafficking victims come from Central America; lesser numbers come from Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Uruguay, and Eastern European countries. Victims are also trafficked to the United States.
The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Mexico as a 'Tier 2' country ("does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so").
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