Sex Trafficking Now a $16 Billion Business in Latin America
Released : Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The trafficking of women and girls for purposes of sexual exploitation has
become a $16-billion-a-year business in Latin America, according to figures
from the International Organization for Migration.

That amount "is almost half of what is calculated is generated worldwide"
by sex trafficking, said IOM's director for the Southern Cone, Eugenio
Ambrosi, in an interview published Wednesday in the Buenos Aires daily

Prostitution, he said, "is vying for second place with weapons trafficking
as the illegal business that moves the most money after drug trafficking."

Ambrosi lamented the fact that trafficking in women has "the advantage ...
(that) the logistical and investment (costs) are much lower" than in other
illicit businesses, and he added that "there's a connection" between drug
trafficking and people trafficking.

"Sometimes the victims ... are recruited to traffic drugs," he said.

"There's a very well organized network, with the capacity to recruit and
use women everywhere to satisfy the requirements of the market," said
Ambrosi, adding that "something has to be done to go after the customers."

He said that in Argentina"there's a lot of demand (for prostitutes) ... due
to a cultural question, like in other parts of the world, particularly in
Latin America."

"We have no information that tells us of an important number of Argentine
women sent abroad. In contrast, there are Paraguayan and Brazilian women
who are sold outside their countries," he said.

The IOM chief for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguayand Uruguaysaid that a
procurer "has a net profit of $13,000 per year" on each woman they exploit.

"It's a very large profit with a very low investment," he said, emphasizing
that "it's horrible ... (to use terms like) sell, quote or market" when
speaking about people who are being exploited.

Ambrosi said that in Argentina, "they pay between $32.50 and $1,623 for a
women who can generate $389 per day by being sexually exploited."

He said that the poor provinceof Misiones, on the border with Braziland
Paraguay, is one of the main areas for the exploitation of Argentine women,
most of whom are minors.

In the northern provinceof Tucuman, "there are families that dedicate
themselves to trading in women as if they were running a pizzeria or a
bakery, to exploit them in other areas or to export them," he said.

"We have nothing to tell us that there is any systematic action by the
police of the authorities to provide protection (to the procurers), but
there could be complicity of individuals who by their own public functions,
whether they be police or officials, make the crime easier" to commit,
Ambrosi said.

In February 2006, the IOM joined with the offices of the first ladies of
four Latin American nations in an effort to reduce the number of children
transported far from their homes to suffer as indentured domestic,
agricultural or sex workers.

Backed by the Inter-American Development Bank, the program focuses on child
trafficking in Colombia, El Salvador, Paraguayand Bolivia.

The first ladies of those nations - the wives of the respective presidents
except in the case of Bolivia- play a significant role in the project.
Bolivian President Evo Morales is unmarried, and his sister Esther occupies
the post of first lady of the Andean nation.

"The project will not only help combat child trafficking but will also
raise awareness on sexual and reproductive health issues and related
subjects such as domestic violence," IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said
last year at the organization's headquarters in Geneva.

Set to last 15 months, the pilot program draws upon successful
counter-trafficking efforts in Peru, conveying those practices to more than
100 teachers representing 10 schools from each of the participating

Organizers are counting on a multiplier effect, as they estimate that the
initial corps of educators will directly reach more than 4,000 primary- and
secondary-school students.

The International Labor Organization estimates that roughly 1.3 million
people in Latin America and the Caribbean- most of them women and children
- are subjected to forced labor, and the IOM says that one aim of the new
project is "to place the subject of human trafficking in school programs
and on public agendas."

The U.S. State Department publishes an annual report on human trafficking,
a phenomenon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described as "nothing
less than a modern form of slavery."

Copyright 2007 EFE News Services

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