Trafficking operates through the recruitment, transportation, transfer, and/or harboring or reception of people, under threat, use of force, or other forms of coercion, kidnapping, fraud, deception, abuse of power, taking advantage of vulnerability, to receive payment or benefits to have control over another person for the purpose of exploitation, as explained by the Palermo Protocol of 2000.
Human trafficking is a reality that occurs on all continents. In Latin America, women in particular are the victims of slavery: “More than 80% of the victims of human trafficking in Latin America are women and girls who, for the most part, are found in countries in the same region,” stated U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on July 31, 2019, World Anti-Trafficking Day, according to Voice of America (VOA).
“According to a U.N. report, 92% of victims in South America and 75% of victims in Central America and the Caribbean are trafficked to neighboring or nearby countries,” the VOA stated.
Modern-day slavery can take several forms: farm work, servile marriages, child marriages, victims forced to be hitmen or “mules” to transport drugs, children sold through catalogs for “pedophile sex tourism,” and more.
According to IOM data, there are more than 600 million international tourist trips annually; 20% of travelers acknowledged that they travel looking for sex and 3% acknowledged they travel looking for sex with children, a figure that translates into 4 million people looking for pedophile sex. Several Latin American countries are the focus of this tourism.
The mechanisms of human trafficking
Among the most frequent forms of trafficking, in addition to those already mentioned, are the exploitation of people of all ages for sex and labor, using children as soldiers or for criminal activities, enslaving victims, forced begging, illegal extraction, and trafficking of human organs and fluids. For example, in Michoacán state, Mexico, the sale of corneas exported to the United States and the removal of organs from minors have been repeatedly reported.
Child sexual slavery includes the enslavement of babies as well as the production and distribution of child pornography.
During the 2019–2022 COVID-19 pandemic, according to information from the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of Mexico as reported in July 2020 by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the production of child pornography grew by 117% thanks to grooming and recruitment of minors through social media and online games. In Argentina, in the same period, child porn production grew by 80%.
“Estimates indicate that situations of modern slavery are by no means transitory: Subjection to forced labor can last for years, while forced marriage, in most cases, is equivalent to a life sentence,” the 2022 report from the IOM, ILO, and Walk Free stated.