When traveling to some foreign countries, it may surprise Americans to learn that prostitution is entirely legal in many places around the world, including Peru.
Although the profession is highly regulated and all prostitutes, both male and female, must be registered with local authorities and be over the age of 18, the majority of prostitutes in the country work informally and are not officially registered.
Travelers should be wary of mingling with unregistered prostitutes as they do not carry a health certification.
Additionally, Peru has a high rate of human trafficking and serves as the source, transit point, and destination of many people who have been trafficked for sex labor. To try to curtail the rising rates of human trafficking and exploitation, the Peruvian government outlawed pimping (proxenetismo) in 2008. Pimping is punishable by three to six years in prison while 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
The safest option for sex tourists of Peru is to go through a legally-operating venue such as a licensed brothel or hotel. However, these venues are also subject to police inspections, raids, and potential closures for breaking certain laws, including the use of foreign prostitutes illegally in Peru; illegal brothels are common, especially in Peru's major cities.
Street prostitution is common in certain parts of many major cities like Lima or Cusco, but unlike in Amsterdam or other popular sex tourism destinations, red light districts do not exist in Peru. Very few street prostitutes operate legally, but police officials often turn a blind eye to illegal prostitution, whether it involves an unlicensed brothel or streetwalking.
Both male and female prostitutes use advertisements—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 also involve sex; the visual style of the card or advertisement 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.
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 where illegal gold mining booms occur. Informal bars, known locally as prostibares, develop to cater to the influx of miners, and prostitutes working in these 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.
Peru's Child Prostitution Law
Peru’s Congress enacted a law to punish those promoting child prostitution. Law 30802 was enacted to “guarantee the protection and integrity of children” entering any commercial lodging in the country. This is one way of fighting back against child sex tourism. Article 4 of the law, states that any presence of underage minors in bars or hotels that cater to sex tourists will be punished under this law. If a hotel or motel is found to have children there for purposes of prostitution, for example, they could have their tourism license immediately revoked.