The pattern is common – a woman who is vulnerable due to her economic, social or family situation leaves her place of origin with the promise that at her destination she will find a job that allows her to send money to her family. The same is true of girls whose families send them away from home in the hope they will have a better future.
Criminal networks look for vulnerable women and girls the most common victims– who, due to their situation, are forced to submit to blackmail in order to get by.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), human trafficking affects 40 million people worldwide, 70% of whom are women and girls. These are only the cases that are made public. UNODC points out that for every known case there are at least twenty that remain unreported. In addition, the figure of 70% increases if we include trafficking for sexual exploitation – in this case, according to UNODC, 94% of the victims are women and girls.
The criminal networks that capture these women and girls are responsible for reducing them to mere commodities, objects to be traded and profitted from. They exploit the victims, with devastating consequences and effects on them. Human trafficking is often linked to other forms of transnational organised crime, such as cybercrime and money laundering.
Neither merchandise nor invisible
Every year, thousands of people are ensnared for sexual, labour and other forms of exploitation. Human trafficking, this contemporary version of slavery, is a serious form of organised transnational crime as well as a painful violation of human rights that deprives many people around the world of their dignity. Human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon that affects almost every country in the world, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for the victims.
According to the ILO, this crime generates some $150 billion a year, $12,000 of which originates in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the number of victims has grown considerably. In this region, most trafficking has a sexual purpose, affecting women and girls above all.
For all these reasons, EL PAcCTO is working to strengthen the coordination and work carried out by the institutions that are fighting human trafficking in Latin America, with the focus always on protecting the victims. For example, this might include the return to their place of origin once the crime has been discovered requiring a transfer under the protection of the authorities.
In addition to our work in supporting indigenous communities in Latin America, at EL PAcCTO we are also well aware of the special vulnerability of indigenous women, who are triply discriminated against because they are women, poor and, in addition, indigenous. Their status as migrants also places them in a more highly vulnerable situation. All of this makes them more susceptible to becoming victims of human trafficking and smuggling networks.
Nevertheless, gender equality has emerged strongly and significantly in the social consciousness, becoming one of the Sustainable Development Goals contained in the 2030 Agenda. Human trafficking is also present in SDG 5, which affirms that in order to achieve gender equality, violence and discrimination against girls and women must be eradicated, including trafficking and sexual exploitation.
EL PAcCTO’s response
In addition to its inter-institutional coordination work to protect victims and provide support for indigenous communities, just a few days ago the first Multidisciplinary Team Specialising in Human Trafficking in Bolivia was launched, backed by EL PAcCTO. This team of specialist police and prosecutors will now make it possible to jointly confront the crime of trafficking in Bolivia.
The programme is closely linked to the AIAMP Ibero-American Network of Specialist Prosecutors against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling (known as REDTRAMP in Spanish), where information is exchanged and victims are protected. There is also a permanent association with the MERCOSUR justice institutions in order to improve the international standards in force today. The Euro-Latin American network LYNX has also been created, comprising police officers who specialise in human trafficking from both regions. Its main task is exchanging experiences, ways of working and investigation methods.
Mavi Moreno, EL PAcCTO communication consultant