Human trafficking is one of the common acts of criminal in Central America that has been at center stage since 1990s. The increased attention for this trade has been driven by United State initiatives, such as the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. Depending on the local dynamics, study reveals that, the activity has got different manifestations across the entire region (NOVA 1). According to a publication by the UNODC “Global Patterns on Human Trafficking”, the Central American country states are the source, transit corridor and destination. They act as a destination for women and children that are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation. The Key statistical analysis from the International Labor Organization revealed that human trafficking industry is a multibillion industry with an estimate that there are 20.9 million victims across the globe (Polaris 1).
Human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking in Central America has attracted much attention in the recent past. The Network of Victims Assistance (NOVA 1) in their report believes that this is a global disaster that is depriving the victims their basic human rights. Research studies reveal that several human trafficking cells exist along the border cities in which children and women are sold in exchange for sexual exploitation. Crackdown of security in this region has forced organizations that engage in trafficking of drugs to diverse their criminal portfolios and subsequently turn to human trafficking for sexual exploitation. This activity Sexual Human Trafficking has seemed easier to the perpetrators due to lack of stiffer punishments for individuals who are found guilty of an offense. Sex trafficking is not only linked with criminal organizations, but also migrant smuggling trade players who take a significant role. Illegal migration flows majorly on the north-south axis. States that receive large numbers of tourists act as trafficked women and children “receiving” states from the surrounding Central America region states (Seelke 257).
Statistical analysis of U.S. 2011 (Trafficking in Person Report) revealed that about 80% of human trafficking cases in the region are female, with minors contributing to up to 50%. Majority of victims become commercial sex exploitation products, a phenomenon that is widespread around the western hemisphere. Both their economic and legal vulnerability situations render them easier targets to be drawn into the region’s migration flow. The trend continues to reveal that more and more children are consequently becoming victims of the situation due to a number of reasons. Lack of employment opportunities has increased their vulnerability to this trade. By falsely offering promises of opportunities and lucrative employment options, deceptive human traffickers manipulate and sexually exploit their victims (Sex Trafficking in Americas is Growing Concern Says US Report 1).
Women and girls have been reported to experience sexual exploitation and loss of freedom and human rights at the hands of their traffickers who claim to own them and sell them for profit (Shadan 129). Violence against women rights and human rights in general has become major global issues. However, in Central America region, these issues are local. The 2000 Palermo Protocol report ascertains human trafficking as an internationally recognized form of slavery. Although these victims earn large sums of money from their forced engagements, they do not pocket this money but instead their traffickers benefit from this money as they work for them. Whether these victims migrated from another state or have originated from within and trapped in the vicious circle of human sex-slavery, they are denied the rights to have their say of never wanting to be exploited sexually. They have no say to the sums of money they make to their traffickers or whether they have been in the business long enough and would want a way out (Shadan 130: Sara).
Human sex trafficking may not be purely an economic phenomenon. Some of the victims are drawn into this trade because of more complex reasons and become psychologically conditioned to stay. Many young women fall prey to false modeling agencies which most serve as sex trafficking ring fronts. Since young women see this as opportunities to fulfill their aspirations to be famous, they contact these organizations and often informed to arrange for in-person auditions. Cycles of physical and psychological abuse begin from there, and some of these women become tricked to work in brothels or get kidnapped (Bertone et al 7).
Human trafficking in Central American societies remains a complex and challenging issue because of its invisible nature. It has been developed and fuelled by the region’s nature of socio-economic and political conditions. Corruption has emerged in the impoverished societies as well as within local, national and regional sectors, an act that has readily favored illegal migrations. In Central America in particular, the activity of trafficking people is mostly associated with sex tourism. This is a situation whereby wealthy individuals particularly from North America and Europe, tour the Central America tourist destinations with intentions of trading in sex with minors (Seelke 256).
Efforts to shut down on the sex trade and break the existing ties with the tourism industry in this region have been unsuccessful. The increased economic incentives from this trade have made an attempt to shut it down relatively hard. The U.S. has been on the frontline in the fight against this illegal trade in Central America using the Trafficking Protocol and TVPA as the primary mechanisms. They have devoted the necessary resources to establish specialized units that deal with human trafficking (Hodge 143). Despite all this efforts, trafficking has remained rampant in the region. The region’s governments are in significant efforts to come up and pass anti-trafficking legislation. However, more effort has to be done in regard to this for effective prevention, prosecution and adjudication of trafficking incidences. Harmonization of their national legislation to conform to the international standards, training of public officials and public awareness are some of the crucial measures that have been placed forward to address this crime (Hodge 144).
The governments are however being made more aware of this menace. More pressure is emphasized to deal with this issue as a human rights issue, and not as a mere societal hindrance to be ignored. Individual governments have to rise and address the human sex trafficking issue domestically as it violates the basic human rights (Guinn 123). The governments within this region must re-align their anti-trafficking legislation according to the international standards and readily avail prevention and rehabilitation service mechanisms (United States Remarks). The region states have the option of using the frameworks that have been set forth by the Trafficking Protocol and the TVPA as a guide in development of policies. (Mario). If all this happens, there is undoubted confidence that the Central America region will successfully win the fight against human sex trafficking and human trafficking at large (Yen 656)
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