By: Camila Giraldo (undergraduate FIGRI student)
Sex trafficking, a form of slavery and involuntary servitude, occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. It results in serious human rights violations, involving individuals profiting from the sexual exploitation of others and having severe physical and psychological consequences for its victims. Although anyone can become a victim of sex trafficking, it mainly affects women and children (according to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are smuggled across international borders every year, more than 70% being women and half being children), and it is the main type of human trafficking, because approximately 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
This global crime arises from the need and desire of people to have a better life. Usually poor, vulnerable and unemployed women from unstable countries are lured by offers of well-paid work offers in bars, restaurants and hotels in other countries, with the fake promise of a better life. They travel with false documents through an organized network which transports them to the destination country. Last year, Dayana (19 year-old girl from Risaralda – Colombia) received a unique offer that would change her life: a job as a receptionist in a port in Panama with a really good salary, but when she got there, the trafficker (a man known as “Ruben”) took her passport and forced her into a terrible situation.
Once the victims fall into the trap and they find themselves forced into sexual slavery, they are held in constant fear and inhumane conditions (lack of food, poor health conditions, degrading living conditions, etc.). This is an obvious loss of freedom, dignity and identity for the individual, where they’re unable to exercise their rights. In the case of Dayana, she was locked with 11 other girls in in a small room without any kind of light or ventilation, and the traffickers used belts and all kinds of violent weapons to control them when they didn’t follow the rules. In addition, they never received a penny for their forced job as prostitutes.
In Colombia, there have been 147 cases of sexual exploitation over the last four years, principally from Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindio, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Córdoba and Nariño. In recent years, the fight against trafficking has been a priority for Colombia. Between 2010 and 2014, the country signed five bilateral cooperation agreements with Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Honduras and El Salvador to prevent, investigate, protect and assist the victims and in June of this year decree 1069 of 2014 was sanctioned with this objective. Despite these initiatives, there’s a poor level of assistance for victims, because according to Colombian law they’re not the centre of the policies, only witnesses and collaborators of the State against organized crime, leaving aside the part of human rights.
As can be seen throughout the article, sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery, where victims, with the promise of good jobs and better opportunities actually get forced into prostitution or other types of exploitation, living in inhumane conditions and fear. As well, it represents a serious violation of human rights that affects almost every country in the world, including Colombia, where every year approximately 147 cases of sex trafficking are seen.