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A close look at prostitution in Costa Rica

A legal activity, but know the limits!

par Yves Pepito Malette
1,7K vues

Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica for individuals over 18 years of age. However, it is important to note that, while prostitution itself is legal, other associated activities such as pimping are not. In this regard, the legality of prostitution in Costa Rica is similar to that in countries like Germany and the Netherlands.

In fact, Costa Rica’s legal system is based on Roman law, unlike most American countries that follow common law. In Roman law, if something is not specifically prohibited in their criminal codes, it becomes legal by proxy, which is the case with the sex trade in Costa Rica.

In fact, you’ll find that prostitution is accepted as a legitimate means for women in the sex trade to earn a living.

Instead of being an underground industry as in the United States and other countries, prostitutes in Costa Rica benefit from organized unions, medical cards, access to healthcare, and police protection. Professional sex workers must undergo regular medical check-ups and are eligible for a free medical examination every 15 days as long as they have an identification card from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Social Security Program).

The most popular cities for prostitution in Costa Rica include San Jose, Jaco, and Tamarindo. However, this phenomenon also exists in other tourist-frequented communities such as Manuel Antonio and Playa del Coco. Just like female prostitution, male prostitution is also available in these communities.

Although prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, there are several laws and penalties to regulate the industry and protect sex workers and their clients. Some of the key legal provisions related to prostitution in the country include:

It is not uncommon for undercover operations to be conducted to expose individuals seeking to have sexual relations with children. In this country, the principle of « innocent until proven guilty » does not really apply. It’s more like « maybe innocent, and the person must wait in prison until proven guilty. »

Laws against pimping: While prostitution itself is legal, acting as a pimp or promoting prostitution is illegal. This includes running a brothel, transporting prostitutes, and advertising sexual services.

Health regulations: Costa Rican law requires sex workers to undergo regular health checks and carry a health card to prove they are free from sexually transmitted infections. Clients who have sex with a sex worker without a valid health card may face fines.

« In my opinion, by legalizing prostitution for adults over 18 and requiring regular health checks, the government is taking steps to minimize the risks associated with sex work, both for the workers themselves and their clients. »

– Victoria, sex worker in Jaco Costa Rica

Prostitution has been a part of Costa Rican society for many years, with historical records dating back to the 19th century. During that period, sex work was primarily concentrated in the ports of Puntarenas and Limón, catering to the needs of sailors and foreign laborers. In the early 20th century, the Costa Rican government began regulating the industry by implementing health checks for sex workers and requiring them to carry health cards.

In recent years, the debate over the legalization of prostitution in Costa Rica has intensified. Some argue that legalization and regulation of the industry can help protect sex workers from violence and exploitation, while others believe it fosters human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Despite these debates, the legal status of prostitution in Costa Rica remains unchanged.

Where to find useful links, government laws, and resources on prostitution in Costa Rica? We are happy to share more information on the laws and regulations surrounding prostitution in Costa Rica. The following resources may be helpful:

Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ): The OIJ is responsible for investigating crimes in Costa Rica, including those related to prostitution and human trafficking.

PANI: The National Child Welfare Agency (PANI) is a government organization tasked with protecting the rights of children in Costa Rica, including those affected by sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can provide information on visas and entry requirements for foreigners planning to visit Costa Rica.

General Directorate of Immigration and Foreign Affairs: This government agency oversees immigration and residency matters in Costa Rica, including those related to sex workers from other countries.


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