Latin American and Caribbean Sex Workers: Gains and challenges in the movement


  • Amalia L. Cabezas



sex work, sex worker movement, sex worker organisations, media, Latin America and the Caribbean


This article challenges the notion that the organised sex worker movement originated in the Global North. Beginning in Havana, Cuba at the end of the nineteenth century, sex workers in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region have been organising for recognition and labour rights. This article focuses on some of the movement’s advances, such as the election of a sex worker to public office in the Dominican Republic, the system where Nicaraguan sex workers act as court-appointed judicial facilitators, the networks of sex worker organisations throughout the region, and cutting-edge media strategies used to claim social and labour rights. Sex workers are using novel strategies designed to disrupt the hegemonic social order; contest the inequalities, discrimination, and injustices experienced by women in the sex trade; provoke critical reflection; and raise the visibility of sex work advocacy. New challenges to the movement include the abolitionist movement, the conflation of all forms of sex work with human trafficking, and practices that seek to ‘rescue’ consenting adults from the sex trade.


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Author Biography

Amalia L. Cabezas

Amalia L. Cabezas is an Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of the book Economies of Desire: Sex Tourism in Cuba and the Dominican Republic and co-edited Una ventana a Cuba y los Estudios cubanos: A Window into Cuba and Cuban Studies and The Wages of Empire: Neoliberal Policies, Repression and Women’s Poverty. Her journal articles include publications in Social and Economic Studies, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Latin American Perspectives, Social Identities, and Cleveland Law Review. Her current project addresses sex worker movements in Latin America and the Caribbean. Email:




How to Cite

Cabezas, A. L. (2019). Latin American and Caribbean Sex Workers: Gains and challenges in the movement. Anti-Trafficking Review, (12), 37–56.