In Bolivia, prostitution establishments are regulated by an obsolete framework imported from Europe at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Since the claustration of prostitutes came to an end in the 1990s, the system has shifted to the compulsory control of STDs. This has given rise to an unprecedented situation, in which the informal persistence of coercive regulations has become equivocal and provided the sex workers with a degree of autonomy in their relationship to procurers and clients alike. These accommodations have allowed the system to increase its legitimacy despite the fact that Bolivia has ratified the major international conventions in favor of the abolition of prostitution. In order to understand this phenomenon, the paper reviews recent changes in the Bolivian regulatory framework and its ambivalent coexistence with the abolitionist legislation. It then analyzes the ways in which prostitution establishments operate, their recruitment patterns, and how sex workers have taken advantage of the system to blur the analytical distinction between what could be identified as human trafficking, with its heteronomous victims, and what the sex workers consider an opportunity.
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