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Prostitution in Panama

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Title: Prostitution in Panama  
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Subject: Prostitution by country, Prostitution law, Panamanian society, Prostitution in Belize, Prostitution in Honduras
Collection: Panamanian Society, Prostitution by Country
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Prostitution in Panama

Prostitution in Panama is legal and regulated. Prostitutes are required to register and carry identification cards.[1]

However, the majority of prostitutes are not registered; 2,650 sex workers were registered with the government in 2008, but there was no accurate information regarding the total number of persons practicing prostitution in the country.[2]

Prostitutes are known to gather in front of tourist areas such as hotels and casinos. Many prostitutes in Panama, are not only Panamanian but Colombians who come to earn money as well. They are considered to charge higher prices for their services. The average cost for local girls (Panamanians) are $30.00 to $50.00 while Colombian women ask for as much as $100.00.[3]

Prostitutes may adopt street names and start to belong to a new family while leaving their original family for work. Being a sex worker where sexually transmitted diseases are rampant, prostitutes receive no pension plan or retirement from their field of work. Many are left with incarceration if caught, an addiction to drugs, and HIV which then progresses towards AIDS.[4][5]

In some places, prostitution is very much accepted because many see advantages more than disadvantages to it. A beneficial argument from plantation workers has been that homosexuality amongst workers decrease with the idea of female prostitutes. But with some of the acceptance of prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases increase and are still rising along with human trafficking.[6] The principal traffickers in the country are owners of houses of prostitution, and most transnational trafficking occurs using valid travel documents and is conducted through official ports of entry. The PNP Sex Crimes Unit reported that most victims trafficked into the country came from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Central America. The primary destinations for people trafficked from the country are Jamaica and Europe.[2]

HIV/AIDS in Panama

HIV/AIDS statistics in October 2003 for Latin American countries lists Panama as one of the four with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence. “According to the document titled HIV/AIDS in Central America: An Overview of the Epidemic and Priorities for Prevention, HIV adult prevalence seems to be highest in Belize (2 percent), followed by Honduras (1.6 percent), Panama (1.5 percent), Guatemala (1 percent), El Salvador (0.6 percent), Costa Rica (0.6 percent), and Nicaragua (0.2 percent), based on UNAIDS estimates”. According to HIV/AIDS in Central America: An Overview of the Epidemic and Priorities for Prevention, the cause of this disease is assumed to be from heterosexual sex yet it’s also prevalent in high-risk populations among men being sexually active with other men, prostitutes, and commercial workers. With men being the highest ones with the disease, women are beginning to catch up to them.[7]

In 2000, public and private financing given to public health and HIV prevention activities was $800,000 in Panama.[7]

Underage Sex Laws in Panama

According to Article 175 of the Penal Code it is illegal to engage in sexual acts with a child under 14.[8] There are also restrictions for sexual acts with children between 14 and 18 years of age.

Article 176 reads "Whoever, using a condition of advantage, achieves sexual intercourse with a person over fourteen and under eighteen, even with consent, shall be punished with imprisonment from two to four years."[8]

This does not apply if the age difference is less than 5-years and the partners are in a stable couple relationship. The law reads: "The sanctions provided in this article do not apply if there is a couple relationship duly established between the victim and the agent, and the age difference does not exceed five years."[8]

Article 179, Penal Code states that anyone who promotes the corruption of a minor under the age of eighteen by encouraging the victim to participate in or witness sexual acts that affect their psychosexual development will be punished by imprisonment for five to seven years. The penalty will be aggravated to between seven and ten years in prison of the victim is under the age of fourteen or fell pregnant; the offense was committed jointly by two or more persons; the offender used deception, violence, intimidation, abuse of authority or trust, or if the victim was infected with a sexually transmitted disease, among other aggravating circumstances.[9]

Article 186, Penal Code defines the offense of paying in any form or gratifying a minor between the age of fourteen and seventeen, to perform a sexual act with himself/herself or a third person. The offense is punishable by imprisonment for five to eight years. Where the victim is under the age of fourteen the sentence will increase to six to ten years’ imprisonment.[9]

Article 187, Penal Code this Article states that anyone who uses, allows or permits a minor to participate in acts or indecent exposure or pornography, whether or not actually recorded, photographed or filmed, will be liable to imprisonment for six to eight years. The same penalty applies to anyone who uses email, the Internet or any other regional or mass media to incite minors to engage in online sex, or to provide or stimulate sexual services, through any of the above means, by phone or in person.[9]

Article 189, Penal Code states that anyone who has knowledge of the use of minors in pornography or sexual activities, whether the person obtained such information by means of his or her duties, job, business, profession, or by any other means, and fails to report it to the authorities, he or she will be imprisoned for a term between six months to two years. If the commission of the crime cannot be proved after the report, the person who reported it will be exempted of any liability with regards to his or her report to the authorities.[9]

Article 190, Penal Code, imposes a penalty of sex tourism, the recruitment of a minor aged between fourteen and seventeen for sexual exploitation, whether this actually takes place or not. The penalty will increase by half the maximum sentence if the victim is under the age of fourteen.[9]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b 2008 Human Rights Report: Panama. (2009-02-25). Retrieved on 2011-03-30.
  3. ^ "Underage Prostitutes Walk the streets of Central America." PANAMA TIMES & COSTA RICA TIMES. Templar Panama, 21 Dec. 2009. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.
  4. ^ Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution in the Era of AIDS. Claire E. Sterk Putnam Valley, NY: Social Change Press, 2000. 178.
  5. ^ Bletzer, Keith V. (2008, January 7). [Review of the book Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution in the Era of AIDS by C. E. Sterk]. Sociocultural Anthropology, 261, 262.
  6. ^ Enloe, Cynthia H. Bananas, beaches & bases: making feminist sense of international politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. 141.
  7. ^ a b "HIV/AIDS in Central America." Worldbank. The World Bank, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ a b c d e "Panama." Fosigrid. Global Resources and Information Directory, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

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