Whore, mother, citizen? : The need for a re-definition of the citizenship of sex workers in Argentina
Abstract: In the subject of prostitution there has been a growing trend towards a sex work discourse, where the selling of sex and sexual services is regarded as a form of emotional and erotic labor. The discourse emerged in response to the self-organization of sex workers into labor unions and citizenship rights groups. In Argentina the first steps towards self-representation of sex workers’ interests were taken in the early 1990s. Gradually the sex workers’ social movement has grown into the labor union Ammar (La Asociación de Mujeres Meretrices de Argentina), which actively seeks recognition for sex workers’ economic rights, labor rights and social rights. Although the selling and buying of sexual services has been legal since the early 20th century prostitutes’ rights have been suppressed hitherto. In 2008 Argentina enacted the United Nation’s Convention to combat human trafficking, Palermo Protocol, as federal law 26.364. The law re-enforced the state’s abolitionist policies towards prostitution, which consequently further marginalized the sex workers’ plight. Connecting their services with human trafficking schemes heightened the social stigmatization of sex workers. To contest the institutional violence and social discrimination Ammar presented a law proposal in 2013. The reform asks the state of Argentina to recognize sex work as a legitimate form of labor, thus insuring the sex workers’ labor and social rights. This paper contributes to the aforementioned sex work discourse by analyzing the self-agency of Argentine sex workers. Based on qualitative fieldwork studies I conducted in 2014 in Argentina and employing a feminist methodology my object is to study how sex workers’ counter hegemonic movement redefines their citizenship. To construct a theoretical framework for the case study I will utilize Giorgio Agamben’s paradigm of ‘state of exception’ and compliment Agamben’s shortcomings by advancing feminist- and queer theories, which have radically revaluated the concept of citizenship. The conclusion is that, even though Argentinian sex workers’ requirement for equal rights may be embryonic, it addresses an urgent inclusion of different kinds of sexualities and gender balances to the citizenship discourse.
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