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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Despite reports of high levels of violence among women migrants in Central America, limited evidence exists regarding the health and safety of migrant sex workers in Central America. The analysis explored migration-related determinants of susceptibility to violence experienced by migrant sex workers across different phases of migration. Violence in home communities and economic considerations were key drivers of migration. Unsafe transit experiences e. Inthe stock of international migrants 1 million and the stock of internal migrants million, living outside their region of birth together represented Among Latin American and Caribbean international migrants 36 millionsCentral American migrants are the most likely to reside outside their region of birth 17 million - most of whose Historically, civil conflicts across Central America, including the Guatemalan —Salvadorean — and Nicaraguan — civil wars, gave rise to the first mass migrations of Central American migrants to Northern countries such as Mexico and the USA.
In addition to historical civil conflicts, current migration flows in this region are shaped by broader structural factors related to globalization, such as income disparity and gang and drug-related violence International Organization for Migration ; United Nations Development Programme Globally and in Central America, women play a large role in migration flows. Women frequently migrate independently to support their family as sole economic providers or in search of social mobility Zimmerman, Kiss, and Hossain Economic opportunities for female migrants are often constrained by gender roles and legal barriers related to immigration status, frequently limiting economic options to informal sector jobs Kanaiaupuni ; Mahler and Pessar ; Pessar Given research indicating the elevated health and social risks experienced by migrant sex workers in other low- and middle-income settings Goldenberg Women want sex Coyote al.
Our analysis Women want sex Coyote migration-related determinants of violence examined experiences across different phases of migration and was informed by a conceptual framework emphasizing the multi-staged nature of risks across the migration process Zimmerman, Kiss, and Hossain Additionally, we drew upon the Theory of Gender and Power to guide and contextualize findings related to the social mechanisms that produce gender-based inequities and disparities e.
Whereas Tecun Uman represents a common destination and transit community for international migrants, including migrant sex workers, Quetzaltenango is also an important destination for internal migrant sex workers. Guatemala has one of the largest populations of internally displaced people 2 in Latin America estimated atinlargely due to drug-trafficking associated violence Internal Displacement Monitoring Center As a relatively prosperous city and a tourist destination, it attracts large flows of both internal and international migrants.
According to a estimation report, approximately women between 15—49 years old exchanging sex in Quetzaltenango, making it the department with the third-highest concentration of sex workers in Guatemala. Quetzaltenango has been noted to be a key destination for migrant sex workers largely due to its economic prosperity and its location along a major Northbound transit route Morales-Miranda et al. In both communities migrant sex workers face high reported rates of violence Leyva et al.
In Guatemala, public health regulations require that sex workers in certain work environments e. Data for this analysis were drawn from 16 months of field research, including ethnographic fieldwork e. The analysis included 29 migrant sex workers interviewed as part of a study on migration, sex work, and health November —Januarywhich elicited information on migration and Women want sex Coyote work history, interactions with authorities, violence and health. A of common questions were asked during both studies, allowing us to examine broader structural issues such as immigration, violence, and human rights across both studies.
Moreover, the same investigative and field team were involved in the collection of data in a similar population across the two qualitative studies, and during the research and analytic process noted how similar evolving themes were emerging in both projects e. Recruitment for both projects involved unobtrusively inviting potential participants to the study during outreach to indoor and outdoor sex work venues led by our local community partner organisation, EDUCAVIDA.
Participants were selected using a purposive sampling scheme that aimed to capture a diversity of experiences and perspectives e. The interviews and focus groups followed loosely structured guides, which were iteratively revised as data analysis and collection progressed. All participants completed a questionnaire that was used to describe general socio-demographic characteristics. Data collection also included periodic ethnographic fieldwork, including visits to different sex work venues e.
All interviews were transcribed and translated by trained, bilingual staff at UCSD. Any personal identifiers were removed, and each participant was identified by a unique pseudonym. Experiences that conferred resilience and susceptibility towards violence were explored. Even though we were using different methodological instruments interviews and focus groups both projects featured the use of open-ended questions related to migration, violence and other structural determinants, as well as the collaboration of the same organization for the recruitment and data collection process.
The coding strategy used for both projects was inductive analysis to identify and compare common themes and patterns across participants Creswell ; Fetterman The coding strategy first organised the data according to the major themes that emerged in the transcripts. For the current analysis, information regarding reasons for migration, sex work entry and the contexts associated with migration journeys was grouped and regrouped until a cohesive set of codes emerged to describe the data.
Among the 52 participants, the mean age was 32 years old.
Approximately half of participants were internal migrants from different Guatemalan communities, and the remainders were international migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Thirty-two participants were single and nine were in a relationship. However, women who had migration experience reported circular migration and safer experiences while traveling back to their home communities. Negative interactions with police and immigration authorities e.
Experience in sex work and enhanced access to information on immigration policies were identified by participants Women want sex Coyote protective elements in the destination communities. Honduras occupies the first place For international migrants, threats and extortion by gangs and gang-related violence were often reasons to migrate:. I suffered a lot with my husband…. Most participants described their migration as influenced by the need to provide for children, as well as a desire for improved social and economic opportunities. I was born in Nicaragua…I left when I was 17 years old. I came here to Guatemala because life in Nicaragua is really hard; there are no opportunities there.
Sometimes people try to find a better life for their families in other countries… and sometimes it has to be doing this [sex work]. After I got married, my husband died and I was alone with two children. I was ashamed to work in my country. With this [sex work], I have done many things; I have supported my children by myself. My daughter will graduate from college next year and my son is an engineer. However, lack of information concerning these policies and fear of being detected by immigration officers led many women to engage in undocumented border crossings Guatemala-Honduras and Guatemala-El Salvador borders.
To avoid detention or deportation by authorities, numerous participants were smuggled across the border or crossed through isolated areas:. I came by myself. I was asking for a ride and they [the truck drivers] brought me here. In some cases, women involved third parties such as smugglers in their undocumented migration.
This was common among those attempting to migrate to the USA:. We were going to the United States and the coyote [smuggler] let us there, we already had paid everything but they let us there in the middle of nowhere. We had to come back here [Quetzaltenango, Guatemala]. For internal migrants, vulnerabilities while travelling between cities, such as travelling to an unplanned migration destination or travelling through more dangerous or isolated areas in order to avoid detection by police, were most commonly described among those who migrated as young people:.
Women want sex Coyote migration and transit through isolated areas for young women have been ly shown to entail high vulnerability to abuse, including sexual violence Bronfman et al. Notwithstanding dangerous experiences during transit, some participants engaged in circular migration between communities or countries e.
This practice was common for both internal and international migrants and typically entailed greater reported safety during transit; this was most common among women with enhanced access to information on immigration policies or who had more migration experience:.
I often go see my kids [in El Salvador]. Participants frequently experienced extortion and abuse of power by government authorities, including the police, immigration officials, and public health inspectors, in destination communities.
These forms of abuse typically occurred during raids and other forms of surveillance carried out by police and immigration officials in sex work environments. They [police] always come to the bar and always want to abuse women, they know we are not from here [Guatemala] and they are always taking advantage of us in bars, cantinas everywhere.
The role of police and immigration authorities in enforcing immigration and sex work regulations within sex work venues were often blurred and overlapping. Internal and international migrants often recounted experiences with immigration and police raids at their work establishments, mainly in larger cities e. Typically bar owners were informed by police before the raids occurred, so that migrants working in the establishment had the opportunity to avoid detection.
However, within this context of structural violence, enhanced access to information on immigration policies and greater experience as a migrant and within the sex industry were found to confer protective strategies for migrants in destination communities:. If the police…come and find you they screw you and send you back to your country. In this study, participants reported diverse reasons for migration, including the desire to flee from different forms of violence and economic considerations.
This echoes the findings of studies from other Central American countries Bronfman, Leyva, and Negroni ; Bronfman et al. Reasons for and experiences of migration were shaped by highly gendered vulnerabilities Arana ; Bell ; Mahler and Pessar ; Musalo et al.
Our analysis also revealed how enhanced experience and information regarding migration and sex work enabled female migrants to counter structural vulnerabilities within their environment, enabling increased independence and economic mobility in destination communities Van Blerk During the pre-migration, transit, and destination phases, migrant sex workers were frequently subjected to Women want sex Coyote forms of violence, abuse, and human rights violations.
There is need for larger studies across Central American countries that comprehensively analyse the implications of different types and drivers of violence within each country e. Our findings suggest that the risks attributed to the structural environment surrounding sex work e.
This was found to be true for both internal and international migrants Cuadra and Marsal The implementation of immigration policies and the intersecting vulnerabilities faced by migrant sex workers were linked to the abuse of power and the violence committed by public authorities.
Despite the structural vulnerabilities characterising this context e. Our study participants highlighted the importance of providing migrants with appropriate support and resources e. Additionally, they expressed their interest in peer-based education, particularly among women with more migration and sex work experience. Despite the multitude of migration-related vulnerabilities documented, we found that even among women who were aware of the risks associated with migrating through this region, some chose to embark on or Women want sex Coyote continue their journey despite such challenges.
Prior studies suggest that this is linked to economic drivers, including the need to support dependents, as well as violence in communities of origin Bell ; Servan-Mori et al. This evidence suggests that policies implemented to discourage migration may not be effective for marginalised women in Central America in the absence of efforts to address broader structural needs.
Whereas interactions between sex workers and police have been better-studied internationally Decker et al. Given the small of participants who reported experience or intentions to migrate to the USA, further research on this issue is needed. Lastly, given that this study included data from two different projects, one of which was not deed a priori to explore issues of migration and violence, these issues may have been under-represented and warrant further mixed-methods research.Women want sex Coyote
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Migration, violence, and safety among migrant sex workers: A qualitative study in two Guatemalan communities