Prostitution in Peru

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••• Street prostitution in Peru. WIN-Initiative/Neleman/WIN-Initiative/Getty Images

Prostitution is legal in Peru, as long as the prostitutes are over 18 years of age and are registered with local authorities. To register with the municipality, the women must be in Peru legally and must carry a health certificate. Despite attempts at regulating prostitution in Peru, the majority of prostitutes work informally and are not officially registered.

Pimping (proxenetismo) is against the law in Peru and is punishable by three to six years in prison.

The pimping of a person under the age of 18 is punishable by five to 12 years in prison.

Brothels and Other Zones of Operation

Licensed brothels exist and operate legally in Peru, but they are subject to police inspections/raids and potential closures for breaking certain laws, including the use of foreign prostitutes who are in Peru illegally. Illegal brothels are common, especially in Peru’s major cities.

Street prostitution is common in certain parts of many major cities. Red light districts do not exist, although there have been talks about setting up such an area in Lima.

Both male and female prostitutes use adverts -- placed in public spaces or posted in newspapers or online -- to promote their services. The advert might be for a stripper or masajista (masseur/masseuse), but the service may involve sex; the visual style of the card or advert normally makes this fairly clear.

Some hotels have connections with prostitutes, who they “offer” as an unofficial service, typically by showing their guests photos of the available women.

If the guest is interested, arrangements can be made for the prostitute to visit the hotel room.

Police officials often turn a blind eye to illegal prostitution, whether it involves an unlicensed brothel or streetwalking.

Child Prostitution and Human Trafficking in Peru

Child prostitution and human trafficking are the darkest and most tragic aspects of prostitution in Peru, and both are unfortunately all too common.

According to the US Department of State’s “Peru 2013 Human Rights Report,” Peru is considered “a destination for child sex tourism, with Lima, Cusco, Loreto, and Madre de Dios as the principal locations.”

Child prostitution is a common and growing problem in areas in which Illegal gold mining booms occur. Informal bars, known locally as prostibares, develop to cater to the influx of miners. Prostitutes working in these basic bars may be 15-years-old or younger.

Human trafficking is tied to both adult and child prostitution. Traffickers lure increasing numbers of adult and underage women into prostitution, many from poor jungle regions of Peru. These women are often promised other types of work, only to arrive in a city far from home where they are then forced into prostitution.