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MEXICO: The women of Casa Xochiquetzal

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Sonia, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, in her bedroom at the shelter in Mexico City, Mexico on October 2, 2013. Sonia is from Sonora and is 62. At age 6, she went to live in Mexico City with her family. Sonia left home at 11 to escape her demanding mother and the religious education she sought to impose on her. Her mother abused her, and her stepfather tried to molest her several times. Her parents never sent her to school, and at a young age she began working as a housekeeper and waitress. During a party, when she was 14, a man raped her, then shot her in the head to keep her quiet. The bullet remains lodged in her head to this day and cannot be removed. The attack left her partially paralyzed on her left side, and pregnant. She moved to Casa Xochiquetzal after one of her daughters stole her life savings. Casa Xochiquetzal is a shelter for elderly sex workers in Mexico City. It offers its residents refuge, food, health services and a place to learn about their human rights, as well as courses to help them rediscover their self-confidence and deal with traumatic aspects of their lives. Casa Xochiquetzal provides a space to age with dignity for a group of vulnerable women who are often invisible to society at large. It is the only such shelter in existence in Latin America. Photo by Bénédicte Desrus