WEIGHT: 49 kg
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Their aim: to organise a trade union to fight for their rights. Some 10, prostitutes work the streets of Buenos Aires, a figure that has more than doubled in the past three years. Argentina has an unemployment rate of close to 20 percent. Wincing in pain she takes off her stiletto heels, opens a bag and pulls out her lunch, a cold meat sandwich, bought on the run at five in the afternoon.
Elena and most of her colleagues at the Argentinian Association of Prostitutes AMAR actually met in the cells of the Buenos Aires police, a regular gathering point for street prostitutes. But she is not afraid of them. She has taken legal action against a commissioner who threatened her with death after she denounced police abuses on TV.
Elena, aged 47, has two children and a grandson. According to the police AIDS has cut prostitution in the streets in half and doubled the number of women working out of their apartments. But the prostitutes paint a different scenario, saying more and more women are taking to the streets out of necessity. The other day the police picked 30 of us up, and one was crying because she had told her husband she had gone out to look for work.
Their working life is rather different form the prostitutes who work from private homes. Their clients drawn via agencies that post regular daily newspaper advertisements, prostitutes who receive their clients at home are often professional women, administrative staff, students, and even women from upper socioeconomic sectors.
Some own the apartments where they work. Those who work out of their homes can earn up to 8, dollars a month. But those who work the streets do not always make it to 1, dollars a month. And those who work in saunas, massage houses, clubs and hotels earn even less. We have problems with police if we stand at a corner. The saunas hire women from outside Buenos Aires or from neighbouring countries who come to the city in search of better opportunities.