Violence Against Sex Workers at the Apollo Police Station in Lima, Peru

Latin America Regional Correspondent

The municipality of Lima, in collaboration with the National Police of Peru (PNP), the Research Crime Administration (DIRINCRI, as it is known is Spanish) as well as those in charge of the Human Trafficking Division, conduct frequent operations that result in the closure of bars, clubs, pubs, and inns where sex workers work.

In Peru, according to Ordinance 1718 (Article 3 / 03-0212), whoever offers or requests sexual services in public offends morality and public order and will be liable to an administrative fine of 7,700 Peruvian Nuevo Sol (approximately $2,300 USD). Sex work is not a crime under the penal code, but it is regulated through municipal ordinances like the one described above. This creates a context where the police abuse sex workers, and take them to the police station even though they are not committing a crime. The police also use this ordinance to close down inns and bars, and to extort money from sex workers, clients, and third parties.

At the Apollo Police Station, run by the National Police of Peru (PNP), there is an office of the DIRINCRI (Criminal Investigation Department of the Judicial Police). During the control operation that took place on the 15th of April 2016, three sex workers were arrested.

The three sex workers had their belongings taken from them. They were strip searched and exposed; they were told that they would serve time in prison and that they would be publicly exposed as sex workers. They were also told that their families would find out that they are sex workers.

Two of the sex workers were freed after 10 hours, while the remaining one was singled out as pimp. They did this to extort her. The fine of three thousand Peruvian Nuevo Sol was lowered to one thousand and five hundred Peruvian Nuevo Sol, but she did not have enough money to pay.

The sex worker who was accused of pimping asked for the help of the Movement of Sex Workers of Peru and requested a defense lawyer. She wanted there to be a record of the violations committed by these officers. The Movement of Sex Workers of Peru often support sex workers in these circumstances.

Angela Villon Bustamante, a representative of the Movement of Sex Workers of Peru, said the following about the case,

"A colleague was falsely accused of pimping by the DININCRI at the Apollo Police Station. A triad group of DININCRI at Apollo charged her with pimping to extort her and get money from her. When she asked for support by an advocacy organisation of sex workers, she was psychologically tortured, thrown in a dark cell and on the ground, without water and food. Basically, they told her: ‘Ah, you called your organisation, you screwed up, now you're going to learn who the Police are!’

They are not police. They are criminal mafias who extort sex workers. They are corrupt, and licensed to commit crimes by the state. That's why our PNP [National Police] is so discredited. Unfortunately, this is happening every day, cleaning this institution is urgent matter."

This police station is well known for violating the human rights of detainees. NSWP’s Regional Correspondent in Latin America will continue to monitor the violations of sex workers’ rights that occur there.