It is considered as a new form of slavery in the 21s century, human trafficking has acquired special importance in the region. 64% of victims are women and children.
Ana knew that her family’s economic situation was not good, so that as soon as a woman offered her waitress work for a few days during Holy Week she did not hesitate to accept.
She was the oldest of her sisters and knew that the money she earned was going to help her family.
When she arrived at the canteen where she was going to work, another woman gave her a dress and make-up to start doing her work. What she did not know is that that site was a brothel.
The woman who had promised her a job had sold her, and she could do no more than cry. She was beaten and threatened to stop doing anything. Four days later, she lost her virginity to a man who had paid a large amount of money for it.
They were obliged to drug her and she was threatened with death to make her do what the clients wanted during the time she was detained. On two occasions, in despair, she cut her veins to end her suffering, until she was finally rescued by the police some time later.
Unfortunately, the reality that Ana lived through during her captivity, forced to maintain sexual relationships and other slavery conditions, is not an isolated case. It is estimated that two and a half million people are obliged into forced labour, many of them victims of human trafficking. 10% occur in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The central region
The countries in this region, such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador have become a major conflict zone in regards to this issue, according to a report by the World Migration Organisation (WMO), a United Nations dependent organisation.
According to these figures, of the 46,000 victims of the white slave trade who have received aid and help from the WMO, 64% are women and children.
And it is the Central American countries that are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, as labour exploitation, domestic servitude, begging and organ extraction, as well as the exploitation of the victims’ children are already present on their slopes.
The high levels of poverty and sexual inequality as well as a lack of regulation in the Central American countries are some of the causes that underline this human drama.
Neoliberal politics and economic globalisation have contributed especially towards the treatment of people as a more profitable business since industries, large-scale agriculture, business in resource extraction and free trade agreements have facilitated the creation and use of cheap manual labour.
Moreover, the sex industry currently occupies a key and important position in the expansion of international capitalism.
To be more exact, that is the reason why and due to gender discrimination Central American women are suffering, something that is very well ingrained in its macho culture and patriarchal society that turns women into very vulnerable beings and potential victims of trafficking.
Social inequalities and poverty and unemployment levels in the region facilitate this phenomenon. This includes around 65% of Hondurans, 56% of Guatemalans and 48% of Nicaraguans who live under the umbrella of poverty, according to figures from 2011.
Promises of a better life and stable employment are attractions that entice its victims into human trafficking traps, who when they realise the situation it is already too late.
Also, organised crime and criminal groups are another factor to consider. Previously, drug trafficking was the most profitable illegal business in the region, but persecution of that business has made many criminal organisations tire of it for trafficking in women, since they can be used again and again, therefore, it is more beneficial.
Trafficking between countries
White slave trade flows have resulted in an important change in the region, since according to the WMO, Central America and Mexico have become “the destination for intra-regional exploitation”. In other words, in addition to being the source for exploitation some of these countries are also receivers.
The destinations for Latin American victims are countries found mainly in Europe and the USA, although it has been noted that Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico also receive them, according to the report.
As far as Central America is concerned, the document explains that this type of exploitation occurs within the same region. For example, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras are capture countries alongside Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama who in addition to being source countries are also destination countries.
As far as Mexico is concerned, it is usually a receiving country. In fact, on the southern border, prostitution of under age Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran women occurs in the full light of day and with the authorities accepting bribes for their silence.
Human trafficking victims are not only destined for prostitution, there is also domestic labour. Native Central Americans without identity papers, who include under 14-year-olds work in Mexican homes.
However, underneath all this reality, corruption is presented as an endemic evil across the whole region that is becoming a huge obstacle to obtain justice for women victims of human trafficking in Central America.
To combat this business requires actions at a local, national and international level challenging economic, political and social inequality in this region to avoid a continuation of human rights violations and avoid the continuing growth in the number of victims of this 21st Century slavery.
(Translated by Claire Donneky – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)