Although prostitution is legal in Peru and in much of Latin America, sex workers
said prostitutes should be allowed to work under license in "tolerance zones."
To get and keep a license they would have to register with the government,
submit to regular health checks and pay taxes.
"People have to understand that it's not simply about a whore standing on a
street corner, it's a woman, a lady who's working," said Angela Villon,
president of the Civil Association of Sex Workers, at a news conference.
Although prostitution is legal here, it is largely unregulated. Prostitutes say
police are unlikely to investigate cases in which they are assaulted.
According to the health ministry, there are around 60,000 sex workers in Peru,
14,000 of them in the capital Lima, although Villon said she believed the true
figures were higher.
The call for laws to regulate prostitution has won support from at least one
lawmaker, Jose Macedo, who said he would propose a series of measures in
As in other countries, prostitutes in Peru work openly in the street and
advertise in newspapers, often under the pretext of offering massages.
The government of moderate leftist President Alan Garcia has proposed a ban on
such advertisements, angering sex workers who say they are being driven
"They've put us on a par with criminals," Villon said.
Increasingly, governments are trying to penalize pimps and the prostitutes'
clients rather than sex workers. Some critics of regulation say it can be
counter-productive, working only for as small number of sex workers in legal
brothels and forcing those outside the system to the margins of society.
Prostitution is legal in many countries, and some, like Germany and the Netherlands, have legalized brothels. Most of these nations, however, have prohibited profiting off sex work, making it illegal to be a pimp.