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Department o Goernment
D-leel paper
lall 2006


Author: Annika Daln
Superisor: Lars Rudebeck




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3. ML1HOD 14
3.2. 1HL IILLD S1UDY 15
.2.]. ^)R1! 15
3.3. WRI11LN MA1LRIAL 16
3.4. LIMI1A1IONS 1


5.J. AMMAR-C1A 21
:.].]. )ORY 22
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:.].. 1! O^ PRO))|)O^ 24
:.2.]. )ORY 26
:.2.2. .C)1) 26
:.2.. 1! O^ PRO))|)O^ 26

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.1.]. ^D1D|. 36
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1his paper is the result o a ield studv conducted in Argentina principallv between December
2005 and March 2006. 1he aim o the studv was to inestigate whether the dierences in the
iews on prostitution between two organizations created bv and working with women in
prostitution implies dierent outcomes in terms o the empowerment processes or the
members. 1he main research question is: ao tbe orgavi.atiov.` rier. ov pro.titvtiov bare avy ettect ov tbe
evporervevt proce..e. tor tbe rovev participativg ava it .o. iv rbat ray.

1he theoretical point o departure or the paper is empowerment. which its into the broader
political science ield o democracv and democratization theorv. Lmpowerment is broken down
into the notions o cboice. with its dimensions resources. agencv and achieements. and o
trav.torvatire ivpact. on an indiidual as well as a collectie leel. 1he primarv material or the
studv consists o nine deep-interiews with women rom the two organizations. which is assessed
using these concepts.

1he two organizations o the studv work with empowering women in prostitution in erv similar
wavs. 1he signiicant dierence between them is that whereas one. AMMAR-(1A. sees
prostitution as sex work. the other. AMMAR-(apital. sees prostitution as oppression that cannot
be a job.

Ater ealuating the material. it becomes clear that the work o both organizations promote the
empowerment processes o the women participating. It is less obious. howeer. whether the
dierences in the iew on prostitution has anv signiicant impact on these processes. Possiblv.
the sex work` position brings about a more positie sel-image construction. but the question o
the consequences o this stand in the long run also need to be taken into consideration.
Neertheless. the great inluencing actor on empowerment lies in the organizing itsel.



Lste trabajo es el resultado de un estudio de campo realizado en Argentina. entre diciembre de
2005 v marzo de 2006. Ll propsito del estudio ue inestigar si las dierencias en las ormas de
er la prostitucin entre dos organizaciones creadas por v trabajando con mujeres en prostitucin
implican resultados dierentes en trminos de los procesos de empoderamiento de las miembras.
La pregunta principal de la inestigacin es: tievev ta. torva. ae rer ta pro.titvciv atgvv etecto ev to.
proce.o. ae evpoaeravievto ae ta. vviere. participavao. y ae .er a.. ae qve vavera.

Ll punto de partida terico del trabajo es empoderamiento. que cabe en el mas amplio campo de
ciencia poltica de democracia v teoras de democratizacin. Lmpoderamiento es escindido en las
nociones de etecciv. con sus dimensiones de recursos. agencia v logros. v de ivpacto tra.torvatiro.
tanto en un niel indiidual como en un niel colectio. Ll material principal para el estudio
consiste en nuee entreistas en proundidad con mujeres de las dos organizaciones. lo cual es
ealuado usando estos conceptos.

Las dos organizaciones del estudio trabajan con empoderando a las mujeres en prostitucin de
maneras muv parecidas. La dierencia signiicatia entre las dos es que mientras una. AMMAR-
(1A. e la prostitucin como trabajo sexual. la otra. AMMAR-(apital. e la prostitucin como
una opresin que no puede ser un trabajo.

Despus de haber ealuado el material. esta claro que el trabajo de las dos organizaciones
promuee los procesos de empoderamiento de las mujeres participando. Sin embargo. queda
menos obio si las dierencias en la orma de er la prostitucin tienen algn impacto
signiicatio en estos procesos. Posiblemente. la posicin de trabajo sexual` da lugar a una
construccin de imagen personal mas positia. pero tambin se necesita tomar en cuenta la
cuestin de las consecuencias de largo plazo que conllea esta postura. No obstante. el actor
importante de inluencia esta en el organizar en s.


1his paper has its starting-point in the empowerment discourse. which its into the broader
political science ield o democracv and democratization theorv. 1o illustrate empowerment and
links between empowerment and dierent tvpes o organization. a case studv o the organization
o poor women in prostitution in Argentina is presented.

Deelopment research has or a long time pointed to a connection between gender inequalitv and
poertv. and between empowerment o women and social and economic progress.
Due to
traditional unequal gender roles. women. especiallv in poor countries. oten hae limited access to
sae work. air pav. accumulation o economic assets and inluence oer important decisions
aecting their lies. such as marriage and childbearing. Lnabling girls and women to reach their
ull potential has positie implications or the whole societv. both because women are ital
economic contributors with their paid and unpaid labour and because o their role as primarv
caretakers or the next generation:

\hen discriminatorv burdens are remoed. the capacitv and earning power o women
increase. lurthermore. women tend to reinest these gains in the welare o their children
and amilies. multiplving their contributions to national deelopment. Lmpowering women
propels countries orward towards the MDGs and improes the lies o all.

In 2001. Argentina`s economv collapsed completelv ater a long economic recession. 1he countrv
had returned to a democratic svstem in 1983 ater seen vears o militarv dictatorship. 1he
militarv junta let a countrv heailv indebted. with hvperinlation and a deastated economv. 1he
politics pursued bv the ollowing presidents was one o intense priatizations and market
liberalizations. and the Argentine peso was tied to the US dollar. 1his created an illusion o
economic prosperitv. which became increasinglv diicult to keep up with an oeralued exchange
rate. poorlv run public inances and an increasing international debt. 1he possibilitv o a uture
collapse in the dollar exchange rate led to a svstematic low o capital out o the countrv. and
when also ordinarv people started emptving their bank accounts the goernment decided to
reeze them. lrom one dav to the next a withdrawal limit o 250 pesos or dollars per week was
imposed. 1his aected not onlv the middle class who saw their lie saings taken awav rom

See or example chapter 1 and 2 in UNlPA. 2005: )be .tate ot rorta popvtatiov 200:. )be provi.e ot eqvatity.
UNlPA. 2005: pp 9-10
ibid.: p 1 MDGs ~ Millennium Deelopment Goals: the UN declaration or reducing world poertv. to be
achieed bv 2015,


them. but also the poorer sectors o societv. largelv dependant on the inormal economv. whose
cash low was now choked.

Popular protests. that had been growing during the last ew months now escalated. and
culminated into large demonstrations all oer the countrv in the end o December 2001. 1he
president was orced to renounce his post. leeing the goernment building surrounded bv the
protesting masses. in a helicopter.
A political crisis ollowed and between December 20
when lernando De la Rua resigned. and Januarv 1
2002 when Lduardo Duhalde entered oice.
Argentina had no less than ie dierent presidents. In Januarv o 2002. the peso was dealuated
and a dollar now cost three pesos instead o one. 1he (entral Bank lost billions o dollars o its
Poertv rates in urban areas rose rom 35.9 to 5.5 in a vear and a hal. rom Mav
2001 to October 2002.

As unemplovment rates increased. the prices o staple ood - which can

be seen as most representatie or the poor households` consumption - rose bv more than 8.
while the prices o proisions in general increased with about 64 between December 2001 and
March 2003.

Since 2003. Argentina has been recoering: the GDP is increasing again and the unemplovment
and poertv rates hae gone down. although the leels are still higher than beore the collapse.
1he most acute phase o the crisis has now been oercome.
loweer. the economic crisis in
Argentina has aected the Argentine women disproportionatelv hard. Although legal obstacles
or women hardlv exist - women are ormallv allowed equal rights and participation at almost all
leels in societv - thev are neertheless structurallv discriminated at all leels. 1his can rather be
related to cultural conceptions o the place and alue o men and women in societv and a social
and cultural svstem based on the man as the norm. 1he neo-liberal politics. and the rising
poertv. hae increased the responsibilities or women. giing them a heaier workload in the
domestic sphere. as much o state proisions. such as health and child care. were transerred to
the priate sector. i.e. the households themseles. At the same time thev hae been orced to
increase their working hours outside the home to economicallv maintain their amilies.

loweer. more than hal o the emale emplovments are ound within the inormal sector. and

Danielsen. 2006: avarapport ov .rgevtiva and Sundstrom: 2002: Sista dansen`
Sundstrom. 2002
del (armen leijo. 2003: ^vero pa.. vvera pobre.a: chapter 11

INDL(: Porcentaje de hogares v personas bajo las lneas de pobreza e indigencia en los aglomerados urbanos v
regiones estadsticas. desde mavo 2001 en adelante`
del (armen leijo. 2003: p 123
Danielsen. 2006
Lipszvc. 2003: Discriminacin de gnero en la Argentina contemporanea. Bree diagnstico`: p 95


women moreoer tend to hae the lowest paid jobs within this sector.
Along with the rise in
poertv and the acute necessitv or additional sources o income in manv poor households.
prostitution became a surial strategv or some women. a group that increased signiicantlv with
the economic crisis.

1he collapse in 2001 was a hard blow or the attainment o sustainable deelopment and
substantial democratization in Argentina. lence. on the road to recoerv. it is indispensable or
Argentina to strengthen the position o women as a wav o reaching this goal.

Various studies are made that point to a positie relationship between some orms o
organization o marginalized or disadantaged groups and the empowerment o these groups. It
is or example oten claimed that women`s communitv organizing in poor countries promotes
their political and economic empowerment.
Using this established idea as its point o departure.
the purpose o this studv is to take the idea one step urther bv looking at the possible impact o
the ideological content o the organization on the empowerment processes.

1he organizations selected or this case studv. two Argentine organizations created bv and
working with women in prostitution. are interesting since thev oer erv good possibilities to
make comparisons. 1he two organizations work with basicallv the same group o women and
arrange erv similar actiities. which are all related to the empowerment o the women in
dierent wavs. \hat distinguishes the organizations rom each other is principallv their iew o
prostitution - while one claims that prostitution is work and the women call themseles sex
workers`. the other organization sees prostitution as oppression that cannot be a job. but an
actiitv that the women carrv out or their surial in lack o a job and thev call themseles
women in a prostitution situation`. Logicallv. this could be expected to hae implications or the
wav certain actiities are carried out and or the content o those actiities.

1he hvpothesis on which this studv is based is that this dierence between the two organizations
could implv dierent outcomes in terms o the empowerment processes or the participating
women. In order to inestigate this. it is necessarv to ind the answers to questions such as i and

(LPAL. 2005: a. veta. aet Mitevio y ta igvataaa ae gevero. t ca.o ae .rgevtiva: p 44
Daln. 2004: Pro.titvtiov iv .rgevtiva iv tbe !a/e ot tbe covovic Cri.i.
A discussion o this can be ound in Jaggar. 2005: Arenas o (itizenship. (iil societv. state and the global order`


how being in the organization has changed anvthing in their lies. and what has changed. i their
own iews on prostitution coincide with those o the organization and i this is a signiicant
actor or being organized where thev are. 1he main issue examined in this studv is about the
ollowing question: ao tbe orgavi.atiov.` rier. ov pro.titvtiov bare avy ettect ov tbe evporervevt proce..e. tor
tbe rovev participativg ava it .o. iv rbat ray.

lollowing this introduction where a brie background has been gien and the purpose o the
paper stated. chapter two is dedicated to presenting the theoretical ramework upon which the
studv is built. It consists o a thorough exposition o the empowerment discourse and how it will
be applied in the analvsis. 1hereater the method used when carrving out the studv is described in
chapter three. (hapter our gies the context in which the studv is placed and in chapter ie the
speciic organizations o the case are presented. In chapter six the important results o the studv
regarding prostitution. organization and empowerment are interpreted and analvzed. with its
point o departure in the empowerment discourse. examining the questions posed in the
introduction. 1his is ollowed bv a concluding discussion in chapter seen.

In this chapter. the theoretical ramework. which will be the point o departure or the analvsis. is
presented. 1he central concept is evporervevt. which will be extensielv elaborated on in the
sections below.

Lmpowerment its into the broader theoretical ield o democracv and democratization theorv.
In modern political science. as pointed out bv the Swedish political scientist Lars Rudebeck
among others. there are principallv two wavs o iewing democracv. One is what can be seen as a
minimalist deinition. which limits democracv to its most essential institutional maniestations:
uniersal surage. regular elections and basic ciil rights. \ithin the other. substantial iew.
democracv is conceptualized as political equalitv in actual practice.
According to the minimalist
iew. Argentina is a democracv. It is howeer the substantial iew that is the most releant one

Rudebeck has summarized his arguments in: On the 1woold Meaning o Democracv and Democratisation`
2002,: p 4


or the case at hand and where the empowerment discourse would it in. 1he substantial iew
does not settle onlv or the juridical institutionalization o political equalitv and basic reedoms as
does the minimalist one. but holds that democracv has to do with the realization o these ideals in
practice. 1he equalization o political power. as well as social justice and equalitv. thus become
essential or democracv as such.
In order or a political svstem to lie up to a substantial
deinition o democracv. the inclusion o marginalized groups in societv is imperatie. and in this
context the empowerment o women becomes crucial.

Lmpowerment is a widelv used term in manv contexts. aboe all in the gender and deelopment
discourses. 1here is a lack. howeer. o a general consensus on how to deine the term. \hat is
generallv emphasized when reerring to empowerment is that it relects a process. It is neither a
static condition nor a mere change in or example access to basic necessities. 1he discussion in
this section has its point o departure principallv in two works bv the social economist Naila
Kabeer. a specialist in gender and deelopment issues.
\ith this as a basis or the discussion. I
will also bring in some relections rom other texts which I hae ound ruitul.

Larlv discussions in the deelopment discourse on the role and place o women. rom the 190`s
onwards had a !ovev v Deretopvevt t!D) ocus. seeing women as a ulnerable group that
needed to be targeted bv special women`s projects`. designed to help them. but positioning
women as objects rather than subjects or agents o their own change. Although this was an
important perspectie to put ocus on women`s position within deelopment processes. its
limitations became increasinglv criticized. and in the late 1980`s the Cevaer .va Deretopvevt
tC.D) perspectie emerged. 1his takes in unequal gender relations and adopts a gender
mainstreaming approach. \omen are not seen as a special issue`. a gender perspectie should be
applied to eerv aspect o the deelopment process. lurthermore. women and men should be
seen as subjects in their own right rather than objects o external interention. a iew that is also
a crucial part o the empowerment discourse.

Rudebeck. 2002: pp 4-6
1hev are Resources. Agencv. Achieements: Relections on the Measurement o \omen`s Lmpowerment`
2001, and Cevaer eqvatity ava rovev`. evporervevt: a criticat avaty.i. ot tbe tbira Mittavivv Deretopvevt Coat 2005,
(onnelv. etc.. 2000: leminism and deelopment: 1heoretical perspecties`: pp 5-64. and de Vvlder. 2004:
`Jmstlldhet och attigdomsstrategier`: p 90


1here is a strong link between poertv and the disempowerment o women. 1he link is direct. or
example when the exclusion o women in decision-making structures results in the necessities o
women being ignored or resources being distributed unequallv. Indirect links are or example the
dependencv o women on men. which limits their possibilities to negotiate on crucial issues. such
as the number and spacing o their children.
Deelopment initiaties and projects directed at
guaranteeing basic necessities and at themes related to inrastructure can acilitate women`s
empowerment. loweer. it is important or the impact o these initiaties that thev are also
directed toward the alue svstems that mav preent women rom participating in actiities
outside their houses. lurthermore. or the poertv reduction initiaties to hae a transormatie
impact in the long run thev hae to create possibilities or the women themseles to take
possession o the process.

Beore going more deeplv into the discussion o empowerment. a brie oeriew o the concept
o power is necessarv. since it is an intrinsic part o the whole empowerment discourse.

2.].]. PO!R
1he question o how to deine power is ast enough to desere a paper o its own. lere. I will
onlv brielv touch upon and discuss the concept. concentrating on its relation to gender and

Power is commonlv diided into two tvpes. porerto and porerorer.
\hile power-to has positie
connotations. reerring to people`s abilitv to make their own lie choices and act upon them. een
in the ace o opposition rom others. power-oer comes with negatie associations. relating to
actors` capacitv o oerriding the agencv o others. or example bv using authoritv. iolence or
other orms o coercion. Power-oer also operates in the absence o anv explicit agents. as or
example cultural biases or norms can constrain people`s abilitv to make and act upon their own
lie choices.

1he lrench sociologist Michel loucault has deeloped a theorv where he sees power as a
network svstem. Power is relational: it originates rom and is exercised in relations as an intrinsic

Strandberg. 2001: Covceptvati.ivg vporervevt a. a )rav.torvatire trategy tor Porerty raaicatiov ava tbe vpticatiov. tor
Mea.vrivg Progre...
In some literature. two additional tvpes are mentioned: porerritb people organizing to achiee collectie goals,
and porerritbiv sel-conidence. sel awareness and assertieness,. loweer. the two orms mentioned aboe are the
most common.
Kabeer. 2005: p 14. See also chapter 3 in lollowav. 2002: Cbavge tbe rorta ritbovt ta/ivg porer


part o these.
Although this wav o iewing power has been criticized bv some eminist scholars.
who claim that it leaes room onlv or indiiduals exercising power in relation to other
indiiduals. while denving the existence o structures.
it can be used to enhance eminist theorv.
Len in a network o power relations there can be patterns o domination and the exercise o
power. but these patterns are not seen as constant and unchangeable. 1he existence o svstems o
control or domination can be an eect o the interaction and concentration o dierent channels
o power.
lence. the contribution o loucault or eminist theorv can be a loosening o the
sometimes rigid hierarchic model o men as oppressors and women as the oppressed. and the
addition o explanatorv models or how men can be powerless within the svstem and how
women can sometimes contribute to their own oppression. how submission to an oppression can
sometimes be perceied as more worthwhile than resistance. Nobodv has` power. but people and
groups are positioned dierentlv within the networks o power relations.
(onsequentlv. a
gender svstem o unequal power relations between men and women can it within loucault`s
concept o power. seeing the svstem as relational. dvnamic and interdependent o other networks
o power relations.

Kabeer conceptualizes power as the abilitv to make choices. 1hus. being denied choice means to
be disempowered. and empowerment reers to the processes bv which those preiouslv denied
the abilitv to make choices acquire this abilitv. Lmpowerment. thereore. is a process o change.
which means that powerul people. who exercise a great deal o choice. are not necessarilv
empowered. unless thev were disempowered to begin with.
Lmpowerment. as acquiring the
abilitv to make choices. is then a positie orm o power acquisition. linked with power-to. It can
be interpreted as the process o enlarging one`s sphere o action within the network o power

2.].2. COC
1he concept o empowerment is closelv related to the abilitv to make choices. According to
Kabeer. in order or choice to qualiv as such. two conditions must be ulilled. lirst. there must
be alternaties. and second. the alternaties must be perceied as alternaties.
lurthermore. she
distinguishes between irst and second order choices. lirst order choices are what she calls

loucault. 196, 2004: evatitetev. bi.toria. ava ]. 1itiav att reta: pp. 102-10
See or example lartsock. 1990: loucault on Power. A 1heorv or \omen`
loucault. 196, 2004: p 105
Bordo. 1993: `leminism. loucault and the Politics o the Bodv`: pp 181-182. 190-192
Kabeer. 2001: pp 18-19
ibid.: p 14


strategic lie choices. which are critical or people to lie the lies thev want. since thev constitute
the deining parameters o lie. such as where to lie and whether to marrv and hae children. or
example. 1hese in turn rame the second-order. less consequential choices. 1he empowerment
process is concerned with the expansion o people`s abilitv to make strategic lie choices.

1he notion o choice. within the context o empowerment. can be thought o in three inter-
related dimensions: agevcy. re.ovrce. and acbierevevt.. 1he agencv dimension reers to the abilitv to
deine one`s goals and act upon them. and represents the process bv which choices are made and
put into eect. Although agencv is oten perceied in indiidualistic terms. it can encompass
indiidual as well as collectie relection and action. But agencv is more than just the obserable
action: it is also the sense o agencv among actors.

1he second dimension o choice. resources. is the conditions under which choices are made. It
reers to material resources as well as social and human ones that enhance the abilitv to exercise
choice. 1he abilitv to deine priorities and enorce claims conditions how resources are
distributed and made aailable. 1he empowerment process then inoles not onlv an increase in
the access to resources. but also a change in the conditions under which resources are obtained.

1ogether. agencv and resources make up people`s potential or liing the lies thev want. 1he
extent to which this potential is realized is what is reerred to bv the third dimension.
achieements. In other words. achieements relect the outcomes o people`s eorts. \hen the
issue o power is releant. i.e. when a ailure to achiee can be associated with asvmmetries in the
distribution o capabilities behind it. it can be seen as a maniestation o disempowerment.

1hese three dimensions o choice are inter-dependent as thev all contribute to and beneit rom
each other. Achieements lead to enhanced resources or agencv and consequentlv capacitv or
making choices urther ahead.

Kabeer points out that it is important to distinguish between dierences in the choices that
people make and. which is what is o interest or assessing empowerment. inequalities in people`s
capacitv to make choices.
In the discussion o choice. a central issue to take into account is the

Kabeer. 2001: p 19
ibid.: pp 19-22 and Kabeer. 2005: pp 14-15
ibid.. 2001: p 20 and 2005: p 15
ibid.. 2001: pp 21-22 and 2005: p 15
ibid.. 2001: p 19
ibid.: pp 22-23


restraints that preerences and alues can put on the choices people mav make. 1hus. in
considering i an achieement represents a meaningul choice it is not onlv o importance
whether or not other alternaties were materiallv possible. but also i thev were regarded to be
within the sphere o possible choice.
1he transormatie components o choice and agencv
must also be taken into account. that is. those that do not simplv address immediate inequalities
but are also used to initiate longer-term processes o structural changes. 1hus. in situations o
gender discrimination. eidence that an improement o women`s agencv has led to a reduction
in preailing gender inequalities in achieements. can be iewed as eidence o women`s

2.].. COC)1 .C)O^
Although empowerment can be conceied as an indiidual process. Kabeer points out that:
|.| indiidual empowerment is a ragile gain i it cannot be mobilised in the interests o
collectie empowerment.

A undamental idea behind the collectieness o the empowerment process is that women`s
unequal conditions are collectie. rather than a question o indiidual ailures. lence. women`s
subordination should also be put to an end bv collectie action.
\omen`s collectie action can
help expanding their own room or action in seeral wavs: the impact o the communitv in itsel
in strengthening women`s sel conidence. organizing collectielv can help improing women`s
material conditions. and stereotvpical ideas in societv about gender can be questioned.
In a
paper prepared or a UN expert meeting on empowerment and poertv eradication. the
connection between the indiidual and the collectie leel o empowerment is described in the
ollowing wav:
Unless the gendered power structures that subordinate women on the societal leel are
addressed. indiidual women cannot take ull control oer their lies. And unless a group o
women eel worthv o saetv and able to act together. a law prohibiting iolence against
women will hae little eect on women`s abilitv to change their situation.

(onsequentlv. the dierent leels are connected and mutuallv reinorcing in such a wav that
gender equalitv becomes both an outcome o the empowerment process and a catalvst or
women`s empowerment on the indiidual leel. loweer. gender equalitv describes a state

Kabeer. 2001: pp 23-26
ibid.: pp 39-40 and Kabeer. 2005: pp 15-16
ibid.. 2001: p 48
Lduards. 2002: rbivaev bavativg. Ov /rivvor. orgavi.erivg ocb tevivi.ti./ teori: pp 15-16
ibid.: p 16
Strandberg. 2001


whereas empowerment reers to a process.
Lqualitv is the result o a renegotiation o power
relations. and requires that poorer women not onlv are able to gain access to goods. but that thev
are able to do so on terms that respect and promote their abilitv to deine their own priorities and
make their own choices. the essence o empowerment.

2.].1. MPO!RM^). C^DR .^D PRO))|)O^
1he term gender` is connected to sex`. but it reers to the social and historical construction o
what is seen as masculine` and eminine`. as opposed to the biological sex. It thus represents a
social constructiist iew. rather than an essentialist or biologist one.
1he svstem o power
relations between the genders in societv is oten called gevaer .y.tev.
1he gender svstem is usuallv
described as being marked bv two principles: the one o separation and the one o the supremacv
o the male norm. 1he principle o separation means. in brie. that the sexes are separated bv
being assigned certain gender qualities and spheres o actiitv. 1he principle o the supremacv o
the male norm. in turn. reers to the norms and structures within the svstem itsel. ascribing men
as a group a higher alue and a superior power position.

In an unequal gender svstem where women are svstematicallv disadantaged compared to men.
the role o prostitution can be interpreted in dierent wavs. Some. commonlv reerred to as .e
raaicat.. sometimes argue that prostitution can be empowering or women. whereas raaicat tevivi.t.
usuallv argue that prostitution disempowers women.

1he rationale or seeing prostitution as empowering or women is that it challenges the whole
structure o gender inequalities bv going against stereotvpes o women`s work as domestic with
long hours. and o emininitv as being ragile. passie. nurturing and emotional. 1his
conentional paradigm is deied bv the women in prostitution as thev bring into the public sphere
and oer to manv men the serices that women are tvpicallv expected to perorm in priate. or
one man onlv. and or ree. 1his destabilizes male power oer women`s bodies and sexualities.
and challenges patriarchal images and representations o women.
Manv sex radicals argue that
the main problem with prostitution is not that it would be oppressie per se. but rather that it is

Strandberg. 2001
Kabeer. 2001: p 53
Gemzoe. 2003: evivi.v: p 80

Gender svstem` is a deelopment o. and a more dvnamic wav o iewing. the widelv used but more static term
`patriarchv`. lor a discussion on patriarchv ersus gender svstem. see or example chapter three lran patriarkat till
genussvstem` in Gemzoe. 2003.
ibid.: p 93
O`Neill in Scambler. 199: Prostitute women now`: p 4


todav sociallv stigmatized due to cultural blindness and sexual taboos.
1he sex radical iew o
prostitution as a wav to empowerment is related to an indiidualistic iew o societv in general.
with a ocus on eerv indiidual`s right to a ree choice. een i that choice is prostitution. 1here
are women who choose to prostitute themseles because o the economic beneits. the reedom
it brings. or simplv because thev like it. Len though some oppressie structures that can hae
negatie outcomes or women in prostitution are recognized. this is not seen as an argument
against prostitution. but rather against societv as ormed todav.

1he radical eminist wav o interpreting the unction o prostitution. on the contrarv. is as an
expression o power inequalities. Men dominate sexualitv. and the existence o prostitution
unctions as a public recognition o men haing a right o access to women`s sexualitv. thus
legitimizing this order.
Prostitution gies men unilateral access to women`s bodies. as the male
client pavs to use the woman`s bodv or his own sexual satisaction.
\hile sex radicals see
prostitution as an economic transaction inoling sexual serices. most radical eminists see
prostitution as the commodiication o women`s bodies. Being turned into a commoditv among
others means being a saleable object submitted to sexual domination bv men. which is both
degrading and disempowering.

lor the purpose o this studv I hae chosen to deine prostitution` as the actiitv o haing sex in
exchange or monev. using a wide deinition o sex`. thus including other sexual actiities besides
intercourse. O course there exist borderline cases. where it is not erv clear whether it is
prostitution or some other tvpe o relation. Neertheless. this studv is not about those kinds o
cases. but about clear-cut prostitution.

An important issue to clariv or this studv is how to name the actiitv in question and the
women exercising it. since the choice o term in this case has ideological implications. As alreadv
mentioned. there are two main currents: one o which emplovs the term sex work` and sex
workers` while the other one uses prostitution` and women in a prostitution situation`.
respectielv. Principallv. this has to do with the controersv oer whether it is possible to
understand prostitution as a job or not. 1he purpose o this studv is not to decide whether one

See or example Lricsson. 1980: `(harges against Prostitution: An Attempt at a Philosophical Assessment`: p 353
Scambler in Scambler. 199: (onspicuous and inconspicuous sex work: 1he neglect o the ordinarv and
mundane`: p 120
Gemzoe. 2003: p 96-99
Pateman. 1988: )be .evat covtract: p 198
Shrage. 1989: `Should leminists Oppose Prostitution`: p 34


side or the other is right. lence it is preerable here to use the most neutral term possible. lor
this reason I hae decided not to use sex work` and sex worker`. as that would mean explicitlv
positioning mvsel on one o the sides. I do not want to use the term prostitute` either. to name
the women exercising the actiitv. since the word has negatie connotations and is oten used in a
degrading wav. lurthermore. the word imposes an identitv on the woman. that she is primarilv a
prostitute. not aboe all a woman who in turn exercises prostitution or sex work.

In terms o the actiitv. the most neutral words I hae been able to ind. and which I will
thereore be using in this paper. are prostitution` and exercise prostitution`. lor the women who
exercise prostitution I will use women in prostitution`. I am aware that this is not a completelv
neutral term. but I hae not been able to ind a better one either. taking into account that it
should neither be a term that imposes a ixed prostitute`-identitv on the women. nor one that
explicitlv indicates prostitution as a job.

Ater presenting an interpretation o the empowerment discourse. the question o how to
operationalize the concept in order to make it inestigable. remains. 1he United Nations
Deelopment Programme. UNDP. has in its annual luman Deelopment Report an index called
Cevaer vporervevt Mea.vre. which is an attempt to measure women`s opportunities. It uses three
Political participation and decision-making power. as measured bv women`s and
men`s percentage shares o parliamentarv seats.
Lconomic participation and decision-making power. as measured bv two indicators
- women`s and men`s percentage shares o positions as legislators. senior oicials
and managers and women`s and men`s percentage shares o proessional and
technical positions.
Power oer economic resources. as measured bv women`s and men`s estimated
earned income PPP US>,.

Argentina ranks 19 on the Gender Lmpowerment Measure list. and receies a alue o 0.69.
where 1 is the maximum. i.e. ull empowerment o women.
Although this is an interesting
example o a well-established wav o measuring empowerment. its macro-leel and quantitatie

UNDP. 2006: vvav Deretopvevt Report 200. eyova .carcity: Porer. porerty ava tbe gtobat rater cri.i.: p 398 PPP stands
or Purchasing Power Paritv and is an exchange rate that accounts or price dierences across countries. which
allows international comparisons o real output and incomes,
ibid.: p 36


approach is not appropriate or the studv at hand in its current orm. loweer. the basis or
these indicators: women`s decision-making power and inluence in important spheres o lie and
control oer kev resources. remains the same also or an operationalization on the micro-leel.
But since this studv is based on in-depth interiews. thev need to be operationalized in a more
qualitatie manner in order to be applicable.

As pointed out in the preious section 2.1.2.,. choice is a central component o empowerment.
and thereore the three dimensions o choice. re.ovrce.. agevcy and acbierevevt. need to be taken into
consideration. \hen it comes to resources. Kabeer points out that this is more about abilitv to
choose than about concrete choices made. 1o examine this I will look at the extent o control
that women can exercise oer important resources. or example in terms o being able to
inluence issues related to speciic resources.
Agencv in terms o measuring empowerment is
associated with decision-making agencv. I will base mv measuring o the agencv dimension on
the women`s perceptions o their roles in relation to decisions with consequential signiicance or
their lies. loweer. it is also about the renegotiation o power relations in the decision-making
processes. since haing a sav in important decisions does not necessarilv mean empowerment
unless some change in this inluence has taken place.
1he inal dimension. achieements. is the
result o the two preious ones. Assessing achieements will be done bv looking at the extent to
which desired outcomes are realized in practice. 1he ealuation o the results will be done both
bv considering the women`s own perceptions o their empowerment and bv considering
inormation and acts rom the interiews and other material that can help an assessment o the
empowerment processes.

A crucial point or assessing empowerment is not to merelv look at concrete outcomes in
exercising choice. but also at the women`s own perception o agencv. 1he lie situation manv
poor women in prostitution are in does not allow or a great deal o actualized choice. loweer.
since empowerment essentiallv is a process rather than an outcome. it is still interesting to look at
whether the women or example perceie themseles as subjects in their own right. who although
a series o alternaties mav not be aailable to them. at least hae the sel conidence enough to
eel that thev are entitled to the right to make choices were it possible or them.

So ar. I hae onlv dealt with the more indiidual-leel aspect o measuring the empowerment
process. loweer. as pointed out beore. empowerment is as much a collectie as an indiidual

Kabeer. 2001: pp 28-31
ibid.: pp 32-35


process. 1he women as indiiduals can undergo empowerment processes rom participating in
the organizations. but it is also necessarv to look at the possible collectie empowerment o
women in prostitution as a group. Both when considering the indiidual and the collectie
empowerment processes. the transormatie impact in terms o long-term structural changes is o
ital interest.

1o sum up. these are the actors that will be considered when analvzing and interpreting the
results o the studv:
Actual andor perceied resources
Actual andor perceied agencv
Actual andor perceied achieements
1he transormatie impact o the organizations and the empowerment process on an
indiidual leel
1he transormatie impact o the organizations and the empowerment process on a
collectie leel

Ater ormulating the theorv. it is time to turn to practice. In this chapter the method used or
conducting the studv will be introduced and some important choices regarding the studv will be
explained. 1he practical details concerning the ield studv are presented and the limitations o the
studv are discussed.

As pointed out in section 2.2. Operatiovati.ivg evporervevt. the studv in this paper is based on a
qualitatie method. ocusing on a more proound understanding o the case at hand using deep-
interiews as primarv data in addition to literature related to the subject. Statistics are used when
necessarv or complementarv background inormation but thev do not orm a major part o the
material. Since the main interest or the studv is the subjectie positions o the interiewees. the
best wav to acquire inormation is through deep-interiews. 1his more qualitatie methodologv
permits the interiewee to dwell on and deelop the themes especiallv important to her. In


addition. it allows the interiewer to rephrase questions and in that wav eade potential

1he diision between qualitatie and quantitatie method is not a erv clear-cut one. and thev can
be said to be dierent directions rather than completelv separate methodologies. 1he choice o
method. howeer. has implications or the kind o results and the conclusions that can be arried
at. Generalizations. or example become more diicult to make when haing an in-depth ocus
rather than using ast amounts o data. 1his studv is thereore best seen as an illustration o how
the links between dierent organizations and empowerment processes can be understood.

1he studv was conducted or the most part during our months. in Argentina. Manv o the
contacts with people in the two organizations were established during a preious ield work
period or a (-leel paper entitled Prostitution in Argentina in the \ake o the Lconomic
(risis`. written in 2004.
Upon arrial in Argentina in late August o 2005. these contacts were
resumed. but the more svstematic ield work or this paper and the interiews were initiated in
December o 2005 and continued until March 2006.

Besides doing interiews I participated regularlv in arious actiities o the two organizations.
such as meetings. workshops and outreach work in Buenos Aires prostitution neighbourhoods.

1he entire ield studv. meaning all the contact with the organizations and the interiewees within
them. as well as anv additional gathering o material. was conducted in Spanish.

.2.]. ^)R1!
1he interiew material consists o nine deep-interiews. which are listed in alphabetical order in
the list o reerences. lie o these were rom AMMAR-(apital and our rom AMMAR-(1A.
1he interiewees were strategicallv chosen in order to get as much diersitv as possible in the
material and include both members o the directie committees o the organizations and regular
participants. and there are newer members as well as women who were there rom the start.

lor a urther discussion on qualitatie and quantitatie methods. see chapter 4 in Assarsson & Sensson. 1996: .tt
traga ocb .rara. v ivtroav/tiov titt .tat.retev./aptig vetoa
Daln. 2004


\hen interiewing the women I used semi-structured open questions to leae space or the
interiewees to elaborate on the answers. loweer. some kev questions. like the ones presented
in 1.2. Pvrpo.e ot tbe .tvay ava probtev. eavivea. were used in almost eerv interiew.

\hen conducting interiews. there is alwavs the risk o the interiewee consciouslv or
unconsciouslv giing what she thinks the preerred answer is. 1o aoid this as ar as possible I
tried to ormulate the questions in a erv open and non-leading` manner. 1o gie one example:
the interiewees were alwavs irst asked whether their lies had changed in anv wav rom
participating in the organizations. and onlv i their answer was airmatie would thev be asked
urther questions about how this change was maniested. I the interiewee was asked a question
she did not understand. I tried to reormulate the question without using examples as ar as
possible. in order to aoid orcing the answers in anv direction. loweer. een with necessarv
precautions taken. it is alwavs important to be aware o this possibilitv and take it into
consideration when using the interiew material in the analvsis.

All interiews were recorded. with the interiewees` permission and knowledge. and later
transcribed bv me. I hae in a ew cases changed the name o the interiewee. 1his has been
done upon request o the interiewee in order to presere her anonvmitv. It is indicated in the list
o reerences.

1he written material reerred to in this paper is mainlv books and articles. As a basis or the
theoretical ramework. two texts bv Naila Kabeer are used. as presented in the preious chapter.
and in addition to those. inormation rom some other books and articles is also applied. lor the
parts that relate to the more speciic context in which this studv is set. mainlv chapters 4
Pro.titvtiov iv .rgevtiva and 5 )be orgavi.atiov. .tvaiea. much o the inormation comes rom mv
preious paper on prostitution. reerred to aboe. 1o the extent that internet has been used. it
has been limited to oicial goernment web pages and the home pages o the two organizations
in the studv. Other written material that has come to use in this paper are inormation pamphlets
handed out bv the two organizations.


Some o the written material comes rom libraries in Uppsala. whereas other was obtained during
the ield work in Argentina. Although some is in Swedish. the greater part o the material is in
Spanish and Lnglish.

Although none o the two organizations in this studv explicitlv prohibit men rom being
members. there are to mv knowledge no actie men in prostitution in neither o the
organizations. and thereore the ocus in the studv naturallv is on women. Some o the women in
the studv are currentlv in prostitution. whereas some hae let it behind. and some exercise
prostitution on an irregular basis: when their economic situations are such that thev are let no
other choice. loweer. thev hae all at some point in their lies exercised prostitution. and thev
are all currentlv members o one o the two organizations studied.

One o the organizations. AMMAR-(apital is limited to the citv o Buenos Aires. whereas
AMMAR-(1A has branches in seeral Argentine cities. Its headquarters is in the citv o Buenos
Aires. 1he main ocus in the studv is on the organizations` work in the citv o Buenos Aires.
loweer I also interiewed one representatie or AMMAR-(1A in (rdoba.

\hen conducting a social science studv it is neer possible to completelv isolate or all potential
inluencing actors and single out just one independent ariable. 1hus. anv dierences in the
empowerment process can neer with complete certaintv be attributed to onlv one actor. A
signiicant dierence between the organizations. apart rom their iew o prostitution. is the act
that AMMAR-(1A belongs to (1A. Cevtrat ae to. )rabaiaaore. .rgevtivo. Argentine worker`s
central,. which is one o Argentina`s largest workers` unions. whereas AMMAR-(apital is an
independent organization. 1his is an issue which will be urther discussed in chapters 6
Pro.titvtiov. orgavi.atiov ava evporervevt and ivat ava covctv.iov..


In this section some brie. but necessarv background inormation on the prostitution situation in
Argentina will be gien. in order to put the results o the studv and the analvsis into context. 1he
ocus will be on prostitution in Argentina. especiallv in Buenos Aires. todav.

Argentina has an abolitionist approach to prostitution in its laws. It is regulated in the penal code
under the title crimes against sexual integritv`. It is not illegal or an indiidual to exercise
prostitution. the one criminalized is instead:
le who promotes or acilitates the prostitution o minors o eighteen vears o age. een
taken into account the consent o the ictim |...|.

|...| he who or proit or to satisv wishes o other people promotes or acilitates the
prostitution o those oer eighteen vears o age using deception. abuse o a relation o power
or dependencv. iolence. threat or anv other means o intimidation or coercion.

|.| he who economicallv exploits the exercise o prostitution o a person. using deception.
coercie or intimidating abuse o a relation o dependencv. authoritv. power. iolence. threat
or anv other means o intimidation or coercion.

1he seeritv o the punishment depends on the ictim`s age and on how much orce was used.
lor anv person oer 18 vears o age the pimp or the traicker can onlv be punished i it can be
proen that their ictim was somehow orced or ooled into prostitution.

In addition to this regulation in the ederal penal code. there are local and proincial laws. such as
the codes o oences or misdemeanours tcaigo. ae tatta. y ae covtrarevciove.). which urther regulate
prostitution. 1hese laws are erv oten aguelv ormulated. such as public disgrace` te.cavaato ev ta
ra pvbtica). leaing erv much room or interpretations. which lavs the ground or arbitrarv arrest.
1he Autonomous (itv o Buenos Aires has since 2004 a new code o misdemeanours tcaigo
covtrarevciovat). which was approed despite strong popular protests. Its article 81 regulates the
oer and demand o sex in public places` and stipulates one to ie davs o work or public

lor a historic oeriew o prostitution in Buenos Aires. see or example Guv. Donna: 1994: t .eo petigro.o. a
pro.titvciv tegat ev vevo. .ire. ]:]::: Lditorial Sudamericana. Buenos Aires. and Alonso de Rocha. Aurora:
2003: )ri.te. cbica. ategre.. Pro.titvciv y poaer ev vevo. .ire.: Lditorial Leiatan. Buenos Aires
Argentina Penal (ode. Article 125 bis. mv translation,
ibid.. Article 126 mv translation,
ibid.. Article 12 mv translation,


use` or a ine o between 200 and 400 pesos.
Although the article explicitlv states that the
oence cannot be based on appearance. clothing or behaiour. this is not alwavs the case when it
comes to practice. (orruption is widespread in Argentina. also within the police orce. 1hus.
brothel owners. who hae an interest in keeping street prostitution down in order to control
competition. erv oten get awav with their own actiities bv bribing underpaid police oicers not
to arrest them and at the same time go ater women in street prostitution.

Since Argentina`s economic collapse in 2001. prostitution has increased drasticallv. 1here are no
oicial statistics on prostitution. neither beore nor ater. but no statistics are needed or the alert
obserer to notice this act. Although poertv cannot be said to be a cause o prostitution. it is a
contributing actor and prostitution can perhaps. in cases o poertv. work as a surial strategv.
Not onlv the number o women in prostitution increased ater the economic collapse. but also
their age span. Both vounger girls and older women than beore can now be ound in
prostitution. Apart rom poor women ound in street prostitution and in brothels. the market or
sex tourism in Argentina has also increased. where international executies are willing to pav
sums that or voung. well-educated girls are incomparable on the tough Argentine labour market.
lor the ast majoritv o women in prostitution. howeer. the economic collapse has meant a
drastic decrease in earnings and a much greater insecuritv.

Prostitution is a high-risk enterprise or most women. Although Argentina still has a airlv low
lIVAIDS prealence. women in prostitution constitute an especiallv ulnerable categorv.
onlv because thev are constantlv exposed to this and other sexuallv transmitted diseases. but also
due to their weak position when it comes to negotiating condom use with clients. It is not
uncommon or clients to oer a higher pav i thev can hae sex without using a condom. and
een knowing the risks inoled. there are sometimes women who just cannot aord reusing.

Gobierno de la (iudad Autnoma de Buenos Aires: Caigo Covtrarevciovat. articte ]. Mv translation. 200 Argentine
Pesos is approximatelv 50 Luro. in December 2006. 1he Argentine goernment draws the extreme poertv line at
just aboe 400 pesos per month or a amilv o two adults and two children.,
Daln. 2004
1he rate is 1.1 or men and 0.3 or women UNlPA. 2005,. loweer. the maleemale ratio is declining
rapidlv: until 198 it was 921. whereas it now is down to 31. and heterosexual relations without using protection is
now the most requent wav o transmitting the irus (LPAL. 2005,.
Daln. 2004


Another common risk actor is the constant threat o iolence. rom the clients as well as rom
the police. Manv women in prostitution express a continuous anxietv when going o with a new
client. since there is neer anv guarantee that thev will come back alie. \omen in prostitution
murdered bv their clients are not something unheard o. and sexual and other phvsical abuse is
een more common.

As mentioned beore. the lies o most women in prostitution in Argentina are not ones o
economic surpluses. rather the complete opposite. Lspeciallv since the economic collapse it has
become diicult or manv to make ends meet. It takes longer hours on the street and more
clients to earn the suicient monev. 1he alternatie to street prostitution is brothels. 1hev are
erv common in Argentina. and manv o the women in street prostitution at one point started
out there. Although brothels oer more securitv in terms o access to a stable clientele. the pav
per client is lower. the working hours are longer. and there is not the same reedom to. at least in
theorv. be able to turn down unwanted clients.

1here are no programs aimed speciicallv at women in prostitution rom the part o the
Argentine ederal goernment. Some proincial goernments. and the goernment o the
Autonomous (itv o Buenos Aires gies inancial support to indiidual projects initiated bv
AMMAR-(1A and AMMAR-(apital and the two organizations are allotted quotas o
goernment aid programs or persons in poertv to administer or their members.

In this chapter the two organizations in the studv will be presented. Inormation comes rom the
interiews I hae made with representaties o the organizations. and rom inormation material
handed out bv the organizations as well as rom their respectie homepages.

Daln. 2004. lor example there is the case o 25 vear-old Rosa Andrea Machado murdered bv a client in (rdoba
in 2003: 32 vear-old Sandra (abrera. secretarv general o AMMAR-(1A`s Rosario chapter. murdered in 2004.
probablv bv the police: and the 30-something women in prostitution disappeared andor murdered in Mar del Plata
since 1996. probablv bv the police and inluential brothel-owners.


Beore moing on to the presentation o the organizations. it is necessarv to clear up some
terminologv issues. Both organizations claim the name AMMAR.
I hae separated them bv
calling one AMMAR-(1A and the other one AMMAR-(apital. 1hese are howeer not the
names used bv the organizations themseles. 1he organization I hae chosen to call AMMAR-
(1A simplv calls itsel AMMAR. 1he Buenos Aires chapter o AMMAR-(1A is called AMMAR
(apital. loweer. this name is also claimed bv the other organization. which I call AMMAR-
(apital. 1he conusion originates in the act that it all started out as one organization. As most o
the members o the Buenos Aires chapter a ew vears later decided to break with the main
organization and start their own. thev took the name with them and are now a registered
organization under the name AMMAR (apital. Neertheless. AMMAR-(1A which then ormed
a new Buenos Aires chapter still claims the right to that name. I hae chosen to use the terms
AMMAR-(1A because the organization is a part o (1A Cevtrat ae to. )rabaiaaore. .rgevtivo..
Argentine workers` central,. and AMMAR-(apital since that is the actual name o the
organization. \hen reerring to the Buenos Aires chapter o AMMAR-(1A I will use this term.
since calling them AMMAR-(1A (apital would simplv be too conusing.

AMMAR-(1A still uses the original abbreiation or the name. and has vviov ot .rgevtive .e
ror/er. iv actiov tor tbeir rigbt. as a watchword. As an organization thev are part o the (1A. but the
indiidual members o the organization are ailiated directlv to AMMAR.

AMMAR-(1A consists o a national organization and o 15 local chapters in 10 out o
Argentina`s 24 proinces
. 1he national organization`s oice is located in (1A`s national
headquarters in the citv o Buenos Aires. and the oice or the Buenos Aires chapter o
AMMAR-(1A is on the premises o (1A Buenos Aires.

In total. the national organization has around 3000 ailiated members all oer the countrv. out o
which around 300 belong to the Buenos Aires chapter. Anvone who is either in prostitution or
used to be in prostitution. and is o age. i.e. eighteen vears old or oer. can become a member o

1he original name AMMAR is an abbreiation o ..ociaciv ae Mviere. Meretrice. ae .rgevtiva. or Association or
\omen Prostitutes o Argentina.
1o be exact. Argentina has 23 proinces and one ederal district. which is the autonomous citv o Buenos Aires.
AMMAR-(1A is thus represented in 9 proinces and in the ederal district. \hen reerring to the Buenos Aires
chapter o AMMAR-(1A in this paper. it is the local chapter o the citv o Buenos Aires that is reerred. not the
proince o Buenos Aires.


AMMAR-(1A. 1here are no ormal restrictions against men in prostitution as members or
against transestites
. but the oerwhelming majoritv o the members are women. 1here are erv
ew men in prostitution in Argentina. and or transestites there are other organizations. that
AMMAR-(1A sometimes cooperates with or some o their actiities.

AMMAR-(1A has a national board elected eerv vear and each chapter has a directie
commission consisting o around six to eight members. loweer. the goal is that all ailiated
members should be able to participate so once a week there is a meeting where eervbodv is
welcome and where most o the decisions concerning the organization are made.

1he organization is inanced rom membership ees. which are 5 pesos per month.
1heir oices
are within the (1A buildings so thev do not need to pav anv rent. None o the representaties o
the organization receies anv salarv. and or the dierent projects the inancing is usuallv
dependent on external unding.

:.].]. )ORY

1he earlv historv o AMMAR-(1A oerlaps with that o AMMAR-(apital since there was onlv
one organization in the beginning. It started out in 1994 in the citv o Buenos Aires. At that time
arbitrarv arrests were erv common. and manv women in prostitution spent almost as much time
in jail as outside it. 1he dierent pimps. who at that time controlled almost all street prostitution.
had to bribe the police with large weeklv sums or the women to be let alone. I thev could not
aord to pav. the women were simplv arrested bv the police. and oten beaten up and abused in
jail. It also happened that police rom one district were paid and then the women were arrested
bv another police district instead.

\hen some women in prostitution irst started to organize it was to trv to stop this heav police
repression. 1here were two anthropologists studving prostitution in Buenos Aires at the time.
encouraging the women to organize and helping them when starting out. 1hev were soon joined

It is not uncommon with man-to-woman transestitestranssexualstransgender in prostitution in Argentina. in
particular in the citv o Buenos Aires. Some use onlv emale accessories. whereas some hae gone through surgerv to
arving degrees. 1hev are all commonlv reerred to as transestites` in the public discourse in Argentina. and thev
also generallv reer to themseles bv this terminologv.
1his inormation comes rom the interiews with the secretarv generals o the chapters o Buenos Aires. Jorgelina.
and (rdoba. Mara Lugenia. According to them. all AMMAR-(1A chapters unction in roughlv the same way.
5 Argentine pesos are approximatelv 1.25 Luro in December 2006.
1he inormation comes rom mv interiews with Sonia AMMAR-(apital,. December 1. 2005. Llena AMMAR-
(1A,. December 9. 2005. Jorgelina AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 10. 2006 and Graciela AMMAR-(apital,. March 29.
2006 and rom inormation materials rom AMMAR-(1A and AMMAR-(apital


bv two lawvers teaching them more about their rights. In the beginning. howeer. it was erv
diicult. \hereer thev tried to meet. on the street or in bars or caes. thev were alwavs taken
awav bv the police. een the anthropologists and the lawvers. In 1995 thev were oered a place in
(1A and could continue organizing more in peace.

As the organization grew stronger. and with the support o the (1A. thev managed ater a couple
o vears to put an end to much o the police abuse. \hen the immediate threat rom the police
was reduced. the organization started working with other pressing issues. such as health and
promoting human rights. 1he organization also expanded to other Argentine proinces. and a
local chapter in Buenos Aires was ormed. besides the national chapter at the (1A headquarters.
Len i the organization almost rom the erv beginning had been a part o the (1A. which is a
national labour union organization. it was not until ater a couple o vears that the question o
unionizing women in prostitution became an issue within the organization. \hen demanding
rights as workers. such as access to social welare and pensions. came up on the agenda. some
women who ormed part o the Buenos Aires chapter reacted against this and in 2002 thev
decided to leae the (1A. 1heir primarv reason or separating was that thev did not agree with
the notion o prostitution as work and did not want to become recognized as sex workers.

Ater the separation. AMMAR-(1A ormed a new Buenos Aires chapter. and is todav an
organization in continuous growth.

:.].2. .C)1)
AMMAR-(1A counts on a wide range o actiities. which include weeklv meetings or the
members. workshops on health. preention. human rights. unionization and sel esteem. 1hese
actiities take place both at the organization`s oices and in the dierent prostitution
neighbourhoods where the actie members o the organization do outreach work. both giing
inormation and handing out condoms.

lurthermore. the organization has lawvers and social workers that work oluntarilv with assisting
the women in soling problems. and psvchologists that help working with mental issues. 1hev
also hae agreements with some hospital clinics where the women can receie health care.
especiallv gvnaecological exams. in a comortable enironment.


In Buenos Aires. the (1A has a school where the women can inish their education. since manv
hae not completed primarv school and in some cases cannot een read or write. In (rdoba.
AMMAR-(1A has started an oicial school. with inancial help rom the proincial goernment.
In the ramework o the ptav iete. y ieta. ae bogar plan heads o households,: a subsistence program
inanced bv the goernment and channelled through NGOs where persons in poertv receie
200 pesos per month
in exchange or doing communitv work or work skills training. the
organization has established micro enterprises where some women can learn sewing in order to
ind an alternatie income to prostitution. 1hev also administer a goernment alimentarv support
program. ptav vaciovat ae .egvriaaa ativevtaria. aimed at persons in a situation o social ulnerabilitv
with the purpose o improing health and nutrition. where the beneiciaries receie a box o basic
groceries each month

:.].. 1! O^ PRO))|)O^
AMMAR-(1A is a union or sex workers. 1here are two main reasons or taking this stand. 1he
irst is a reaction against what thev see as a ictimization o them. seeing them as pobrecita. poor
little things`,. bv those who claim that prostitution is not a job. 1he second reason relates to the
liing conditions o women in prostitution in Argentina todav. and the necessitv o indicating
prostitution as a job to be able to claim rights as workers.

AMMAR-(1A considers saving that prostitution is something else than a job part o a discourse
imposed bv societv. 1he women I interiewed oten pointed out that thev used to see themseles
as unworthv persons. doing something bad. since that was what societv had them beliee.
Starting to see themseles as workers helps them aboe that:
It is all a process o growth. where one savs. listen. this gae me the possibilitv. this job gae
me the possibilitv to gie to mv children what I did not hae. \hich is education. health and
a home.` 1hen. i this is not decent. then where is the dignitv

1hev want to bee seen and respected as women and workers. and not as poor little prostitutes to
be elt sorrv or.

Although thev consider prostitution a job. AMMAR-(1A does not promote it. Rather the
opposite. manv sav that thev would neer wish it or their daughters or sisters. since it is a erv
hard lie. and i it were not or the economic desperation. hardlv anv woman would oluntarilv go

200 Argentine Pesos is approximatelv 50 Luro. in December 2006. 1he Argentine goernment draws the extreme
poertv line at just aboe 400 pesos per month or a amilv o two adults and two children.
Interiew with Llena AMMAR-(1A, December 9. 2005


into prostitution. 1hus. one o their goals is that no woman should hae the necessitv to go stand
in a street corner in order to surie. loweer. in the meantime. thev organize as workers to
improe their liing conditions and claim the rights o anv other worker. One important issue is
or example the right to pension beneits so that women in prostitution should be able to retire.
Being workers also makes it easier to claim a position within the working class. o which thev
consider themseles a part and share manv problems with.

Not wanting to recognize prostitution as a job originates in the double standards in societv.
according to the secretarv general. Llena. 1he women work with something that supposedlv is
or procreation. and that is not to be talked about. She points to the act that there are manv
women who lie with husbands that abuse them or simplv are neer home. that receie monev
rom them to lie each month. 1his is more accepted than women in prostitution coming to an
agreement with a client about proiding a serice in exchange or monev. Paola rom AMMAR-
(1A points out:
I consider mvsel a sex worker. I go and I work. And I charge mv work. Just like I could go
and clean loors I charge mv work. I am a worker. 1hose are mv rights. to call mvsel a

1he objecties o AMMAR-(1A are to deend their human rights as women and persons. to
work or their health and sexualitv without risks. and or their labour rights to be recognized bv

AMMAR-(apital works under the watchword a..ociatiov ot .rgevtive rovev tor bvvav rigbt.. 1he
organization onlv has one chapter. which is in the citv o Buenos Aires. with around 480
members. Although most members are women either currentlv or ormerlv in prostitution. this is
not an excluding requisite or membership. Instead. thev sav that thev are an organization or
women in a situation o social ulnerabilitv. since it is also a wav to preent women rom ending
up in prostitution. seeing that ulnerabilitv and marginalization can work as contributing actors.
loweer. most women in the organization either are or used to be in prostitution. and the ocus
o the organization`s work lies there. Neither are there anv restrictions against men or
transestites as members. but the prioritv is on women.

Interiew with Paola AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 15. 2006


AMMAR-(apital has a directie commission consisting o seen members. since a ormal
direction is a requirement or being a registered organization. loweer. in practice the goal is to
hae a horizontal organization where all members are able to participate on an equal basis.

1he organization is inanced rom membership ees. or those who can aord to pav them. 1he
oice is proided bv the socialist partv and some o the actiities are held on the premises o a
Methodist church. None o the representaties o the organization receies anv salarv. and or
the dierent projects the inancing is usuallv dependent on external unding.

:.2.]. )ORY
1he historv o AMMAR-(apital coincides with that o AMMAR-(1A up until 2002. when some
members decided to orm their own organization. Ater leaing the (1A Buenos Aires oice.
thev moed to the neighbourhood llores where thev are still todav. Ater the separation thev
hae built up their own organizational structure and is now a growing organization.

:.2.2. .C)1)
1he actiities o AMMAR-(apital are erv similar to those o AMMAR-(1A alreadv described.
\here the two organizations dier in terms o actiities is that AMMAR-(apital has no school.
although thev hae had a ew minor education programs. and that the micro enterprises are more
expanded than in AMMAR-(1A. where onlv a couple o women participate so ar. AMMAR-
(apital started with their micro enterprise programs in 2003 and each semester one or two
groups o between 15 and 20 women hae completed them. At the time the studv was conducted
thev had one micro enterprise where the women learned sewing skills and one where thev learned

:.2.. 1! O^ PRO))|)O^
AMMAR-(apital does not want to see prostitution as a job. and just like AMMAR-(1A. thev
hae both ideological and strategic rationales or this position. lirst o all. just because thev earn
monev to surie through prostitution. this does not necessarilv turn it into a job. It is rather a
surial alternatie. low could it be a job when practicallv eervbodv is to get out o
prostitution. and nobodv would wish it or their children


|.| because vou cannot recognize something as a job when there is still exploitation.

1hev want rights and equalitv. but thev do not want them as workers. lor example. thev do not
want retirement as prostitutes. a situation that thev hae alwavs tried to get out o. and that manv
hae been hiding:
low can a person that lied her whole lie about what she lies rom. the actiitv that she
lies rom. when vou are old and can`t take it anvmore. sixtv ie vears old. be going to
recognize something that vou were hiding vour whole lie and that vou will hide alwavs
Retire as a prostitute when vou lied vour whole lie

1hev want the right to pension beneits. but rather as housewies or autonomous women. or
anvthing but prostitutes.

lurthermore. thev are opposed to recognizing themseles as sex workers. since that would mean
a de acto acknowledgement that thev alreadv hae a job. 1hat remoes the possibilities to
demand the right to a job or to work training: the goernment can instead hand out condoms
and claim that thev acilitate or improe the women in prostitution`s working conditions.
I hae a proposal: the condom that the goernment gies me. I gie it back to them. In
exchange or mv bodv. Let us do an exchange. I don`t want more condoms rom the
goernment. but I don`t want them to expropriate mv bodv anvmore. I don`t want them to
expropriate mv subjectiitv anvmore. I I appropriate mv bodv and mv subjectiitv. I know
what I will want. I will be able to decide. i I should protect mvsel or not. I will decide what
to do. whether to stav in the street corner or do something else.

loweer. thev point out that this position in no wav aims at ictimizing the women in
prostitution. thev do not see themseles. nor do thev want to be seen as ictims bv others.

1he objecties o AMMAR-(apital are to improe the liing situation or women. both through
pressing the state to generate public policies o emplovment. decent housing. health and
education and through strengthening the women themseles to oercome their situation. 1hev
also want to work or the respect o the human rights o women and to eradicate all orms o
iolence against women.

Interiew with Graciela AMMAR-(apital,. March 29. 2006

Interiew with Sonia AMMAR-(apital,. December 5. 2005



In this chapter I aim to describe and analvze the impact the two organizations hae on the
empowerment processes o the women participating in them. ocusing on the possible eect o
the dierences in the iew on prostitution between the two organizations.

In the interiew material collected rom the organized women in prostitution or this paper a
clear pattern o prostitution as disempowering emerges. Aboe all. it is the position o
prostitution and women in prostitution within societv and the social stigma upon then that the
women hold orward as disempowering actors:
Because vou know what happens. thev made us beliee that or being whores we are not
worth anvthing. And that the onlv thing we were good or was to stand in the street corner.

1hev witness how thev. when thev irst started out in the organization. had no perception o their
own alue as persons or o their own entitlement to anv kinds o rights:
Because deinitelv vou didn`t know neither as a women nor as a prostitute. nor as anvthing.
about vour rights. nothing. \e were the bad and the. and or us it was normal. that is the
worst part o all.

In a recent studv rom the Uniersitv o Buenos Aires on people liing in the margins o societv.
there is a chapter on prostitution in the poor southern outskirts o Buenos Aires.
In this chapter
the dierence between .tigvati.ea and .tigvati.eabte actors are pointed out. 1he meaning o
stigmatizeable actors is that thev are exposed to the possibilitv o a social stigma. but this
condition is not directlv perceiable. as opposed to stigmatized actors. such as people rom a
certain ethnic origin or. to take the example in the book. transestites. As stigmatizeable actors
are not immediatelv distinguishable as such. the ear o discoerv and probable reprobation can
lead to a series o constant occultation strategies to. i possible. aoid discoerv and the assumed
sanctions. 1his social stigma becomes a label that ends up being the truth een or the women

I. at one moment in lie. thought that I was bad or standing in the street corner. 1hat I was
doing something bad. that I was a bad person. and I lied hiding mvsel. \hen the kids came

Interiew with Llena AMMAR-(1A,. December 9. 2005
Interiew with Graciela AMMAR-(apital,. March 29. 2006
1he name o the studv is o. vvero. ro.tro. ae ta vargivatiaaa. a .vperrirevcia ae to. ae.pta.aao.. Mallimaci and Salia.
2005, and the chapter is called 1rabajo sexual: estigma e implicancias relacionales. 1ravectorias de ulnerabilidad de
mujeres v traesties en situacin de prostitucin en el sur del Gran Buenos Aires.` Meccia. etc.,
ibid.: pp 114-115


out rom school. I hid mvsel. out o respect. \hen the police came I bent mv head down
and accepted that thev took me awav because I thought that I was doing something bad.

1he possibilitv o mavbe not being discoered and thus trving to hide awav makes it more
diicult to organize stigmatizeable groups o actors. such as women in prostitution. than
stigmatized groups. since it is harder to organize those who do not dare to show their ace.

loweer. it is not onlv the social stigma that disempowers women in prostitution. AMMAR-
(apital also points out prostitution in itsel as a disempowering actor. Sonia. the secretarv
general o AMMAR-(apital gae an account o a relection workshop where the women were
asked to brainstorm words that thev associated with sexualitv and eelings. 1he women had come
up with words such as hate`. env`. rape`. betraval` and groping`. but not or example loe`.
happiness` or hugs`. According to Sonia. thev did not pronounce those words because thev do
not know them:
1hat`s what prostitution does. 1hat is what it does. I tell them. it destrovs a person`s
subjectiitv. 1his is whv I sav it. the contempt is erv strong or the actiitv that destrovs vou
as a person. and conerts vou into this cold object that does not react. does not decide. does
not anvthing.

1his picture also came out in another interiew where Laura rom AMMAR-(apital talked about
how being in prostitution had made it erv diicult or her to relate to other people. She has
acquaintances but no close riends.

lurthermore. there are a series o other actors contributing to the disempowerment o the
women in the studv. A signiicant one is poertv. eectielv limiting the women`s possibilities o
exercising agencv. Structures o power relations in societv creates discrimination in terms o
gender. ethnicitv and class. all o which work against these women.

All the interiewees were asked how thev came in touch with the organization. i thev knew when
thev started out that there were two organizations with dierent iews on prostitution and i so.
whv thev chose the one thev were in. Some o the women had participated since the beginning. at
the time when there was onlv one organization. 1hese women were the ones who seemed to hae
taken the most actie stand on the issue. since thev had at one point in time actielv chosen to

Interiew with Jorgelina AMMAR-(1A,. March 29. 2006
Meccia. etc.. 2005: pp 114-115
Interiew with Sonia AMMAR-(apital,. December 1. 2005


stav in AMMAR-(1A or to break out and orm AMMAR-(apital. depending on their iews on
prostitution. 1he ones that broke out. or example Sonia and Graciela who now orm part o the
directie commission o AMMAR-(apital describe it as a process o growth. where the issue o
prostitution as work was not a erv salient one in the beginning. It was not until ater a couple o
vears. when the police repression began to cease. that ideological questions such as using the
organization as a union and demand rights as sex workers came more into ocus and thus it was
at this point that the process o ideological ormation and questioning reallv came about. or the
women that let as well as or the women that chose to stav.

lor the other women. the ones that joined the organizations at later points in time. the situation
is slightlv dierent. lor them. the ideological standpoint was not alwavs the decisie actor or
joining one organization or the other. Instead. manv o them came in touch with the
organizations through other women thev knew who were alreadv ailiated. lor some. their irst
encounters with the organizations were through one o their assistance programs and the
ailiation became a orm o economic subsistence rather than an ideological positioning. 1he
two organizations also partlv work in dierent neighbourhoods in the citv o Buenos Aires. so
or women exercising prostitution in llores. it is more likelv or them to be ailiated with
AMMAR-(apital and or women exercising prostitution in (onstitucin. it is more likelv or
them to be ailiated with AMMAR-(1A. to gie an example. loweer. this does not mean that
the iew on prostitution is o no importance to these women. Much o the actiities arranged bv
the organizations hae their basis in the iew on prostitution. especiallv the discussion groups and
relection workshops. and in those the issue o prostitution is requentlv discussed. permitting the
women to orm an opinion and take a stand. something that most o them hae neer done

loweer. representaties rom both organizations are careul to point out that thev do not want
to impose anv iews or ideologies on the women participating. and that an important part o the
process o growing as a person is being able to orm ones own opinions. Llena Revnaga rom
AMMAR-(1A savs about using the term sex workers:
And we don`t impose on them how thev want to call themseles. On the contrarv. we work a
lot. and then the ones to decide are the women. not us.

Although AMMAR-(apital as an organization does not iew prostitution as work and are against
prostitution as such. neither thev want to impose these iews on the women:

Interiew with Llena AMMAR-(1A,. December 9. 2005


1his actiitv was imposed upon us. to prostitute ourseles. In one wav or another. \e don`t
want to impose once again.

Neertheless. o course. the wavs in which the respectie organizations iew prostitution will
hae an impact on how the women participating come to shape their identities. since it is worked
with rom one particular perspectie. But mavbe that is o secondarv importance to the primarv
act that thev are actuallv working with assisting the women in constructing identities based on a
positie notion o themseles as persons with a alue and citizens entitled to rights. whether as
sex workers or as women in a prostitution situation.

Another important issue is the internal decision-making structure within the organizations and
the leel o inluence the participating women eel that thev hae there. Lmpowerment is not a
charitv actiitv with people rom aboe helping others: it is a process that requires actie
participation at all stages. 1hus. the women interiewed were asked how much inluence thev elt
that thev had on the decisions taken and the actiities carried out in the process and whether thev
elt that there was room or them to take a more actie part i thev would wish to do so. Both
organizations hae the explicit aims o giing all its members equal opportunities to participate
on all leels. loweer. participating actielv in an organization takes time and monev. time to
dedicate to the organization. and monev since the more time spent on the organization. the less
time aailable to spend on earning a liing. time that most o the women cannot do without.
(onsequentlv. in both organizations there is a small group o erv actie women who get the role
o leaders`. albeit inoluntarilv. But it is a situation that thev are aware o:
But the growth also has to be collectie. I hae a lot o women now: one rom the directie
commission here in (rdoba is going to trael to (anada to the international meeting on
lIVAIDS to represent AMMAR Nacional. So that it`s not Llena. Jorgelina or Lugenia.
1hat other women begin as well. I not. it doesn`t work.

But the women interiewed who were not among the most actie ones still said that thev elt part
o the organization. and that their opinions were listened to. to the extent that thev expressed
\es. ves. I hae opinions. I ask. thev listen to me. \es. I belong. I don`t eel part o. I belong
to AMMAR-(apital.

Interiew with Sonia AMMAR-(apital,. December 1. 2005
Interiew with Mara Lugenia AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 24. 2006
Interiew with Marta AMMAR-(apital,. March 20. 2006


According to the theoretical ramework on which this paper is based. choice is a central part o
empowerment. Particularlv important is the abilitv to make strategic lie choices. 1hus. in this
section the ocus will lie on analvzing the interiew material. looking at the empowerment
process in terms o choice. through its components resources. agencv and achieements.

..]. RO|RC
\hen assessing resources the aim is to look at the extent o control that women can exercise
oer important resources. As pointed out in the theoretical ramework. the important aspect is
the abilitv to choose rather than concrete choices made.

One o the most basic resources that exists is language. Not onlv language as a wav o eervdav
communication. but also reerring to being able to use language to ormulate demands and
express standpoints on issues:
1he irst reunion about human rights that I went to. there were manv people. and I didn`t
een dare to talk and besides. I didn`t een understand what thev were talking about. 1hev
were all speaking in mv own language and I understood absolutelv nothing. Nothing.
Nothing o anvthing. 1odav. I can sit down and discuss with these people.

Beore one can een begin to question a situation. or een more so to begin to demand a change.
such as respect or ones human rights. one must hae the tools to ormulate this. Something or
which one does not een hae the words to express is diicult to ind within the sphere o
possible choices to make. In the context o abilitv to choose. haing the access to one`s rights as
a citizen. in terms o being aware o and comprehending them. and in that wav expanding the
potential lie options becomes a crucial step on the road o empowerment.

Other resources that the women can gain access to through participating in the organizations are
o a more hands-on nature. 1hese are or example the skills that thev are able to learn. both basic
schooling and practical crats:
I used to me araid. Not that much anvmore. |.| Now we can raise our heads. because we
are learning in order to get awav rom the street.

1he women acquire skills that are necessarv resources to be able to make other choices in lie.
One o the most basic and concrete resources o them all is o course monev. 1his is also one o
the most diicult ones to access. loweer. the micro enterprises that the organizations are able

Interiew with Mara Lugenia AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 24. 2006
Interiew with (laudia AMMAR-(apital,. March . 2006


to oer some women within the ptav iete. y ieta. ae bogar are one step on the wav. 1he ptav vaciovat
ae .egvriaaa ativevtaria program is another. loweer. when putting the ptav vaciovat ae .egvriaaa
ativevtaria in relation to empowerment. it is erv important to remember the central role women`s
own agencv in the process:
\e don`t want that. Because it is a program that creates dependencv. Pure welarism. |.|
but we will use it as a strategv to approach the women. Because vou can`t talk to them about
preention and health when their stomachs are emptv. So then. well. at the same time as we
hand out the goods we gie chats about gender. health. the organization. how we are carrving
through the organization. what there is to do.

1hus AMMAR-(apital. although thev are against the program as such. since thev would preer a
job to be able to bv their own goods and choose or themseles instead o staving dependent o
the good will o the goernment. has decided to use it as a tool to work towards their own goals
as an organization. AMMAR-(1A. howeer. sees it dierentlv:
I can`t ask or a hundred or two hundred boxes rom the goernment. do a workshop and
put eightv women there and then onlv ater that hand them the boxes. Because then vou are
repeating what the svstem did all vour lie. 1his thing o cheap welarism or cheap

lor them. using the goernment`s programs or other purposes does not become a wav o
turning a svstem creating dependencv into something else but rather replacing one power. the
goernment. with another. the organization.

..2. .C^CY
1he next dimension o choice is agencv. 1he idea here is to look at the women`s perceptions o
their roles in relation to decisions. especiallv those with consequential signiicance or their lies.
and the renegotiation o power relations in the decision-making process. As or the other
dimensions. it is interesting to look at both perceied and actual agencv.

Both organizations work with strengthening the women`s sel-conidence in dierent wavs. to
gie them the sense o sel-worth that is necessarv to dare to demand their right to inluence oer
their own lies. As Sonia rom AMMAR-(apital points out:
1he thing is that we work a lot with the covpavera. that are in the micro enterprises. Because
i not. thev will just be like bodies put in ront o the sewing machines or with the hair rollers
in the hairdresser`s and it`s not vour bodv.

Interiew with Sonia AMMAR-(apital,. December 1. 2005
Interiew with Llena AMMAR-(1A,. December 9. 2005
Interiew with Sonia AMMAR-(apital,. December 1. 2005


Achieing a sense o alue and o being a person in one`s own right is essential or being able to
exercising agencv.

Paola rom AMMAR-(1A proides an example o how her participation in the organization has
helped her increasing her potential o exercising agencv:
1hat I put mv rights into eect in mv house also. Sorrv. but I am a person. I am a human
being. I hae mv rights. I hae the right to wake up in a bad mood. I hae the right to go to
bed in a bad mood. I hae the right to not wanting to clean todav and clean tomorrow

Paola has been able to strengthen hersel and renegotiated power relations within her amilv
giing her more space to act on. (onsidering the quote aboe. there are aspects that seen rom
one perspectie perhaps could be interpreted as suppressie. She holds orward that nowadavs
she is the one to decide or example when to clean the house and i she does not eel like doing it
one dav it is up to her to decide whether to do it or to leae it or another dav. loweer. there is
no questioning o the diision o responsibilities as such. 1he demand is or her husband to
respect her wish to do the household chores when she hersel decides to do them. not about him
sharing the responsibilitv or them. But in assessing the empowerment process it is important to
recall the starting point or most o the women:
\hen we talk about working a lot with the theme o sel conidence and the theme o
iolence. we talk about them and we work with them a lot because it is not that vou just
suer rom iolence when vou start being a sex worker. 1he majoritv o us come with
histories behind us.

Seen rom this context een being able to express opinions and require to be listened to in the
home. een though these are still within the ramework o a traditional gender svstem is
neertheless a huge step or manv.

... .C1M^)
Achieements is the last dimension o choice. and can be interpreted as the outcome o resources
and agencv together. 1he ealuation here is done bv looking at the extent to which desired
outcomes are realized in practice.

lor most women within the organizations. exercising prostitution has not been a ree choice. in
the meaning o being able to make a conscious lie election haing seeral equialent and

Interiew with Paola AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 15. 2006
Interiew with Jorgelina AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 10. 2006


appealing alternaties. Most women also express a desire to leae prostitution. 1hus. getting out
o prostitution would or them be a crucial achieement. Supposedlv. the economic situation in
Argentina is improing. and the unemplovment rates are going down again. loweer. when I
asked Jorgelina rom AMMAR-(1A about this. her answer was no. or the poor classes the
situation is not getting anv better. 1he number o women in prostitution on the streets has not
diminished latelv. or example. 1hus. the women that manage to leae prostitution behind are
wav ewer than the ones who would wish to do so. Neertheless. being in the organization is a
wav to at least begin to see a wav out. to see alternaties. a hope that manv o the women did not
hae beore.

1here are manv obstacles on the wav: manv o the women are single mothers. with little or no
work experience. and little or no ormal education. On the harsh Argentine labour market thev
hae erv ew competitie adantages. Some women manage to combine prostitution with other
sources o income. or example selling things at markets. or working as housemaids. But making
a sustainable liing is diicult since the earnings are erv insecure. 1he women I interiewed that
had managed to leae prostitution behind had all done it with the help o a partner who
maintained the household economicallv. Although this is a better alternatie than staving in
prostitution or manv. the women continue in a strong dependencv on men. and the situation is
erv ulnerable. considering the risk or the relationship to end. and the women haing to go
back to prostitution. or or the women to stav in a bad relationship or the sake o not returning
to the streets. which in itsel can be interpreted as a orm o prostitution. Len so. haing a
somewhat secured inancial situation gies the women some necessarv breathing-space to be able
to create their own income alternaties without haing to worrv about how to aord buving
dinner that dav. 1he support o the organization can work as important assistance on this road to
inding alternaties.

\hen assessing empowerment it is o ital interest to look at whether the eects o the
empowerment process hae had anv transormatie impact in terms o long-term structural
changes. and or the purpose o this studv. the interest lies also in looking at the impact that the
organizations hae had on this process o change. 1he transormatie impact can be obsered on
the indiidual leel. in each person`s lie. as well as on the collectie leel. or the group as a


.1.]. ^D1D|.
All the interiewees were asked what the most important thing their participation in the
organization had gien to them. \ithout exceptions. their answers were all ariations on the
themes grow as a person`. gain sel conidence` or eel sel-alue`. Ater vears. or een a lietime.
o being made to eel like a person worth nothing at all. this is a erv signiicant transormation.
which can be seen as laving the basis or all the other: without eeling like a person. no
empowerment is possible.

As pointed out beore. most o the women emploved a series o occultation strategies in order
or people in their lies. such as their children. not to ind out about them exercising prostitution.
1his becomes both practicallv erv limiting or their dailv lies and the constant ear o discoerv
becomes a heav mental pressure on them. Building up sel conidence and realizing that. or
exercising prostitution. thev are not bad persons. or persons who desere contempt. manv o the
women hae. through their participation in the organizations. decided to tell their amilies. It is a
diicult. but erv signiicant. step that paes the wav or enlarging the sphere o choice and

1he indiidual empowerment is not something that comes bv itsel. or can be taught to someone
through the organization. as Mara Lugenia rom AMMAR-(1A witnesses on how she has
changed as a person since she started organizing:
Mavbe the growth as a person. being able to realize what vour rights are. the person vou are.
what vou`re worth. eervthing vou can do. that. Realize how one can grow i one puts the
mind to it. Because the growth doesn`t come bv itsel. either. \ou also hae to make a great
eort on vour part. in learning. in growing. in wanting to know. in wanting to participate.

Although all women interiewed hold orward their personal growth as the best thing that being
organized has earned them. it is not an undiided positie experience:
1wo things come together. sometimes vou sav to voursel oh. whv did I hae to become
aware. it would hae been better to hae staved like that. not understanding anvthing. better
to lie like that`. because vou suer more when vou understand. \hen vou are aware that
vou lost 20 vears o vour lie that were o no use at all. Because that is the worst o all. vou

Interiew with Mara Lugenia AMMAR-(1A,. lebruarv 24. 2006


weren`t with vour children. vou were mistreated. beaten. with all the humiliation that being
in prostitution signiies.

.1.2. COC)1
1he collectie leel does not applv onlv to the organized women in prostitution. but also in a
wider perspectie to poor women in prostitution as a group. One o the major achieements o
the organizations is the reason to whv thev started out in the irst place: to put an end to the
arbitrarv arrests o women in prostitution and to the abuse in jail. On a group leel. this is one o
the most important achieements o all. which in manv wavs has laid the ground or reaching the
others. both indiiduallv and collectielv.

(loselv linked to this improement in the encounters with the police is a transormation in the
treatment rom the whole societv. All the interiewees were asked whether thev. apart rom the
impact that the organizations had on the indiiduals participating. belieed that the organizations
also could contribute to change in a wider perspectie. looking at societv as a whole. Not all are
optimistic about things:
It seems to me that societv will neer look at vou well. 1hev alwavs see vou as the strange
thing. 1hat. no. to me it seems erv diicult that it will change. But at least this helps vou
to surie things. Societv will alwavs condemn vou.

Others. howeer. especiallv the ones that hae been part o the organization rom the start
maintain that oer the vears that the organization has existed. a transormation in societv has
taken place:
\hat we began to show in ront o the societv. through media. o the organization is that
here are persons. here are human beings that did not choose to stand in a street corner. but
or that thev don`t hae to wash their hands with us. \e made changes. indeed we made
changes. O course that it`s not. changing 3 million people. obiouslv that some will neer
change. but it`s not with us. thev will neer change with the poor. 1here are people that
won`t change and so be it.

O course. achieing changes will probablv not mean anv reolutionarv transormations.
considering that perceptions on women in prostitution is something deeplv rooted in societv`s
cultural norms. and hence something that is unlikelv to be brought about in a ew vears. bv two
relatielv small organizations. 1he point is instead that the organizations. which essentiallv are its
members. hae managed to reach such a leel o acceptance in societv that thev are now inited

Interiew with Graciela AMMAR-(apital,. March 29. 2006
Interiew with Laura AMMAR-(apital,. December 6. 2006
Interiew with Llena AMMAR-(1A,. December 9. 2006


to lecture in schools and are recognized bv the goernment to the extent that thev are granted
monev and support or some o their projects. 1hese aspects are bv ar not enough. but still o
great importance.

\hen comparing the two organizations to each other. the most important aspect to look at is
whether anv perceiable impact on the empowerment processes or the women can be attributed
to the dierences in the iews on prostitution between the organizations or i there in act are
other actors that are o greater importance.

As mentioned in 3.4. ivitatiov.. a signiicant dierence between the two organizations is that
AMMAR-(1A belongs to one o Argentina`s largest worker`s union. whereas AMMAR-(apital is
an independent organization. Although AMMAR-(1A runs its own inances and is not sustained
economicallv bv the (1A in other wavs than bv being proided with an equipped oice: them
being backed up ideologicallv bv a large and inluential organization is a noteworthv actor.
laing the possibilitv to use organization`s well-known name can make it easier to obtain
unding or projects and to get their message through to the public.

Although the iews on prostitution held bv the organizations will hae an inluence on the
content o manv o the actiities. and thus in a longer perspectie on the empowerment
processes o the women participating as well. it is. as pointed out in 6.2. Orgavi.ivg rovev iv
pro.titvtiov. less crucial than the act that the women are actuallv being empowered through
organizing. 1he big dierence lies in the beore and ater organizing. not in the choice o
organization. Both organizations aim at strengthening the women as subjects in their own right.
helping them in gaining sel conidence as well as skills to be able to decide on other lie
alternaties than prostitution i thev wish. \hen understanding empowerment as the process o
enlarging a person`s sphere o action it seems as though it is the organizing in itsel that is the
inluential actor rather than the ideological content o the organization. as long. o course. as the
organization stries or empowering the women. loweer. a small dierence can be perceied.
which originates in the act that prostitution is a erv dominant part o the women`s sel-images
and identities. Although both organizations work with building up identities based on being irst
and oremost women and citizens. the prostitution part still hangs on. lrom this perspectie.
constructing prostitution rom the positie notion o work. instead o the negatie notion o


oppression can make it an easier burden to carrv. 1he terminologv itsel emphasizes the women
more as acting subjects than as ictims.

Still. the dierences in the organizations` iews on prostitution are not onlv o importance or the
indiidual members o the organizations. but also or how societv will come to look upon this
phenomenon. lence. although indicating an identitv as sex workers possiblv is more positie
or the women in the short run. a alid question to ask is whether this leads to a desirable
situation in the long run. 1he position o asserting prostitution as work becomes a bit
contradictorv or een contra productie when at the same time recognizing the destructie
situation that it brings manv women to. Lstablishing prostitution as a proession among others
institutes it een irmer as a legitimized part o societv. which in turn would work against manv o
the other eorts o the organizations. such as assisting the women that so wish in inding other
work options. As pointed out bv Sonia rom AMMAR-(apital. establishing prostitution as work
eectielv remoes the possibilities to put pressure on the goernment to proide women in
prostitution with alternaties. lurthermore it weakens manv o the organization`s own arguments
or obtaining unding or their programs - whv spend monev on assisting these women to ind
work alternaties when thev alreadv hae a job: better to spend them on the unemploved

Bv studving and comparing two Argentine organizations created bv and working with women in
prostitution I hae in this paper examined whether the organizations` iews on prostitution implv
dierent outcomes in terms o the empowerment processes or the women participating and
how this would be maniested. 1his chapter sums up and discusses some o the indings o the

1he theoretical point o departure or the paper is the concept o empowerment. broken down in
the notions o choice. with its dimensions resources. agencv and achieements. and o
transormatie impact. on an indiidual as well as a collectie leel. 1he most notable inding in
this studv is that the work o the organizations can be said to promote the empowerment
processes o the women participating. 1he burning question. howeer. was whether this turns out
anv dierentlv in the two organizations. 1he most straightorward answer to this question is no.
lrom the material this studv is based on. it is not possible to sav with certaintv that anv


dierences in the empowerment processes can be attributed to the organizations` iews on
prostitution. On the other hand. the answer is not as easv as a straightorward ves or no. lrom
the interiews with the women in the two organizations. a slightlv more positie position can be
discerned among the women rom AMMAR-(1A. As elaborated on in 6.5. . covpari.ov betreev
tbe tro orgavi.atiov.. it is possible that this can be a consequence o the more airmatie
connotations o the sex work terminologv. loweer. it is the organizing in itsel that is the bv ar
most inluential actor on the empowerment processes. It would be interesting with urther. and
more extensie. studies on the topic that perhaps could shed more light on what the implications
o dierent iews on prostitution reallv are.

It is diicult to make anv predictions about what the uture will bring or the women in the
organizations and women in prostitution in general in Argentina. I the economic situation or
the countrv as a whole continues to improe. the conditions or the poorest sectors o societv
must brighten as well. Neertheless. as o todav it seems like there is still a long wav to go beore
poor women in prostitution will be able to make a conscious choice on how to make a liing. and
then turn it into realitv. As or the organizations. it is crucial that thev do not get caught in their
own ideological disagreements. orgetting that their real adersaries are not ound in the other
organization. and ailing to see that the similarities are more than the dierences. and that thev on
manv issues would beneit rom working together to be stronger.




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1he names with hae been changed to keep the inormant`s anonvmitv.
*Claudia AMMAR-(apital - March . 2006
Llena Secretarv General. AMMAR-(1A - December 9. 2005
Graciela 1reasurer. AMMAR-(apital - March 29. 2006


Jorgelina Secretarv General. AMMAR-(1A Buenos Aires - lebruarv 10. 2006
*Laura AMMAR-(apital - December 5. 2005
Maria Lugenia Secretarv General. AMMAR-(1A (rdoba - lebruarv 24. 2006
Marta AMMAR-(apital - March 20. 2006
Paola AMMAR-(1A - lebruarv 15. 2006
Sonia Secretarv General. AMMAR-(apital. December 1. 2005