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The silent human rights abuse: Trafficking of Latin American Women » Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

The silent human rights abuse: Trafficking of Latin American Women

May 13th, 2010 by trobbins Leave a reply »

So far in this blog, I have focused on the effects of illegal immigration on women and their health.  A variety of factors make women particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect and ill health, even when they come here voluntarily.  Voluntary illegal immigration often involves “smuggling,” in which a person pays for aid to cross illegally to a desired destination.  While smuggling involves a degree of autonomy on the part of the migrant, trafficking does not.  It is a crime, not against the state like smuggling, but against an individual.

Trafficking can take on a variety of forms: it can be for sex or any other type of labor that the individual is coerced into unknowingly or against their will.  About 17,500 people from Latin America are trafficked to the United States every year, accounting for 41% of the total number of trafficking victims (1).  Trafficking disproportionately affects women: a UN study found that 65-75% of trafficking victims are female.  Of the people forced in forced economic exploitation, such as agricultural work and domestic service, 56% are women.  Additionally, 98% of the people forced into the sex slave trade are women (1).

The reasons for the pervasiveness of trafficking of Latin American women are complex.  Obvious contributing factors include poverty, discrimination unemployment, and political instability in women’s home countries.  Many Latin American countries, such as Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala, do not have the political stability to confront trafficking issues, and often prioritize fighting against other crime problems like drug trafficking and gang violence (2).

I think the worst aspect of sex trafficking is its invisibility, especially with regards to the demand side.  What is visible are the “red light” districts, not men in business suits who benefit from the services of exploited women.  It is so frustrating that the people in society who have the most power and influence over societal trends – upper-class, wealthy men – are the ones who are exacerbating the problem.

While it is incredibly complicated to address the overarching issues that contribute to sex trafficking (like cultural gender inequality, poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities), I think that men in power must recognize how much they are contributing to a human rights abuse.  Educational campaigns need to target not just everyday citizens who may seek prostitutes, but also those in power who are doing the same while sliding under the radar.  I hope someday we can find a way for men who use exploited prostitutes for their own selfish pleasure are challenged and held accountable by other men in power.

1. Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean
Clare Ribando Seelke Specialist in Latin American Affairs October 16, 2009

2. Dynamics of Prostitution and Sex Trafficking from Latin America into the United States Cultural background, dynamics of exploitation, sex trafficking, impacts upon
the United States, recommendations for professionals. 2003 Charles M. Goolsby, Jr.

3. TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN FOR SEXUAL EXPLOITATION IN THE AMERICAS prepared by Alison Phinney

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1 comment

  1. rllano says:

    As a man, it is appalling that so many women are trafficked around the world, but it is even more troubling that this happens in our own backyard. This is something that I think most Americans see as a problem affecting other parts of the world, but not the US. It is despicable that other human beings are capable of taking advantage of the poverty and desperation of so many women and tricking them into becoming sex or labor slaves. What is worse, however, is the demand for trafficking of women. At the end of the day, if there was no market for sex or labor slaves, there would be no trafficking. I completely agree with you that we need to address this root cause, especially among men in positions of power and influence.