Amsterdam Report

Appendix II

Interview with Claudia Colimoro

Claudia Colimoro was a candidate for the Representative Assemby of the federal district of Mexico on the Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT-Mexican section of the Fourth International) in the 1991 election campaign. This pro has fought hard for contraception and abortion rights, and demands the legalization of her profession. I taped a conversation with her and her translator at the Amsterdam AIDS conference. The tape was transcribed and translated by Enriqué, a pro friend of mine from Costa Rica
-- Andrew

The convention of Women for Democracy and the feminist co-ordinator are proposing me as a candidate for a political position in the Assembly. Even though I wasn't part of their political party (the Revolutionary Workers Party), they are offering me a place on their team so that I will be able to run for a political position.

I am starting my campaign with poor slogans because I wasn't prepared or organized; I have worked very hard in several provinces of the Republic and in the General District (Mexico City) trying to speak openly about sexual education at all the levels of schooling, and especially to talk about AIDS in an understandable way; to talk about condoms -- safe sex -- as the only way of preventing AIDS.

I talk about the need for kindergartens with rotary schedules for women in general. I talk as well about boarding homes for prostitutes and the possibility of legalizing prostitution.

Prostitutes need to be able to use the medical plan and to pay taxes so we can all have our constitutional rights -- of education, health and housing. I wasn't asking for a project to benefit prostitutes only; I was asking not to be separated from the rest of society. We are part of the working class and we generate a lot of jobs. Besides we want our work to be recognized. We're like other women -- the only difference is that we have decided to work with our genitals.

I think all those intellectuals are like prostitutes, since what they are selling is there intellect. Those who write prostitute their capacity for writing; and the athletes who sell their strength are like prostitutes too.

At first, the reporters wanted to do a controversial campaign and they wanted me to flash them and let them take pictures of my breasts (like Ciccolina -- she's an Italian cabinet member). I told them that my campaign is serious, like my work. That's what we need -- more respect. That is one of the reasons I will never get undressed to get attention and publicity. I think if I want to be taken seriously I must conduct myself seriously and respectfully.

I told them I want to change the name of prostitutes -- which is so offensive -- that we should be called "sex workers" instead. After a while they started taking me more seriously and I think one of the reasons is because I didn't want to play their game. At the beginning they would ask me how many clients I did per day and what I did with them. I told them that my personal life wasn't the important subject; what is important are the needs of all the prostitutes all over the nation. And the important point is to legalize prostitution -- our profession.

I didn't just talk to prostitutes about prostitution; I talked will all types of people about a whole bunch of different topics. I got a lot of solidarity from housewives.

Finally the housewives understood that we are not trying to steal their husbands -- we wouldn't be able to handle so many husbands; and we wouldn't know what to do with all of them. Its just a job and they understood that.

Actually, we kind of help their marriages by having sex with their husbands when they can't because of being pregnant, having a baby, having too much work, being tired, and so on. They supported me very strongly.

Nowadays I'm working very hard because I am thinking of running for election again in 1994 -- for the Assembly. And I'm doing sex education and STD prevention on a nationwide level, as well as organizing prostitutes, so they can claim their rights and not feel they are doing something wrong. I'm forming political groups in each one of the provinces and I am assigning a leader to each one. I am thinking of having the first national congress of prostitutes in Mexico in 1993.

When you came out publicly as a prostitute, did you have trouble?

I came out as a prostitute five years ago, mainly because of the need to educate my co-workers about HIV; to somehow stop the contagion. I had to do programs on TV so people could see that we are not drug addicts or burglars, but women who need to work and support our families and children and to improve ourselves socially and economically. Prostitution is the best paid job for women here in Mexico, and the elasticity of our schedules means we can spend more time with our children.

Well, about being attacked. I am respected in the quarter where I live. They respect my sons as well. My son has even said publicly that he is the son of a prostitute and he is not ashamed. He says he couldn't have had a better mother. My sons and grandson hand out condoms. My son is president of the juvenile part or our association and my grandson is president for the youngest ones. They talk about safe sex and how to prevent getting HIV. They are not ashamed that I'm a prostitute. We have to tell our children, gradually, what we do -- before someone else does.

Have you ever been attacked?

Claudia No. Never, not even during the campaign. Actually, recently I was attacked recently by a guy I don't know; but it wasn't a big deal. Sometimes people say, "Why don't you go and make money in a decent way? You should make money doing laundry for other people." I tell them I'm not Cinderella. I have a profession -- I'm a prostitute. And I have been respected and I will keep working hard to reach the Chamber. I think it is very important for a prostitute to be in the Chamber to change a lot things for my co-workers and my community.

Can you talk a bit about prostitution in Mexico -- how much you charge, and so on?

According to one psychologist, there are 200,000 prostitutes in Mexico City and several levels of prostitutes. The TV actresses and models charge 10 million pesos and they are not controlled by Public Health. The bar girls charge 1 million and they are controlled by Public Health. The call girls by telephone are not controlled. The "Esteticas" charge 400,000 and they are controlled. ["Esteticas" are like massage parlour girls]. With the street girls there are three levels: 200,000 for 20 minutes; 150,000 for 20 minutes, hotel included; and 20,000.

All of them are controlled by Public Health, which means they have to pass a medical exam to make sure they are not HIV positive and that they are healthy. They have to do this every three months. They get a card -- if they pass the test -- and the police can't give them a ticket if they check on them. After four years, this is one of the most important achievements we have had. I thank Dr. Uriba, Dr. B. Rica, and Mr. Victor Ortiz -- Marta Lama, leader of the feminist group. Now we and our families can receive free medical consultation in a hospital, for minor and major surgery and for childbirth.

We have a plan to have different schedules for the kindergartens and it has already been accepted by the government of Mexico City. Right now we just need the place -- they are giving us the furniture and the cost of construction. For the last four years, the police haven't stolen the girls' money. We will keep on fighting to legalize prostitution and we want to pay taxes as a way to get benefits like any other worker in the country.

At Monterey (one of the provinces) we already have a change in the Act. And there hasn't been one for the last 80 years! We want them to change one of the articles. We want them to change the word "pimp" to "boss." So they'll pay the taxes (as a small company), since they make money out of us.

Is there a law about exploiting prostitutes and pimping in Mexico?

About 30 per cent of girls are exploited, especially in the low levels of prostitution. But the girls don't want to leave their pimps. There are cases where one guy is pimping up to five girls. When I try to talk to them they say, "leave him alone, we like you but leave him alone." And I cannot do anything about it. There are cases where a pimp infected five girls with HIV and they (the girls) are still in love with him.

Anything else you would like to say?

Yes, I hope next year we can chat, since I'm going to learn English. And I would like to say that my life has changed a lot since I've been helping my co-workers and I hope I can keep on helping them. I love them all. A big kiss...

Amsterdam Report... [Rights Groups]

Created: September 22, 1997
Last modified: December 20, 1998

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