As its conflict with the FARC rebel group comes to a close, the Colombian government faces another pressing humanitarian challenge. Rampant sex trafficking victimizes thousands of vulnerable, displaced, and poor Colombians. In this episode, we interview Garrett Suarez and David Medina about their field research on Colombian sex trafficking, government failures to combat it, and successes of the NGO Corporación Espacios de Mujer in helping trafficked victims. 

[Sex Trafficking] is going to be the next challenge for Colombia in the next decade.
-David Medina

Global Trafficking Networks

Garrett and David’s research and travels to Bogota and Medellin in Colombia revealed an expansive and international sex trafficking network. Colombian criminal groups called “bandas criminales” (BACRIM) operate sophisticated networks that traffic men, women, and children both within Colombia and to South America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Poor and internally displaced victims are persuaded, tricked, and coerced to become sex workers. They experience unspeakable atrocities.

Colombia’s Insufficient Response

Several factors constrain the Colombian government’s ability to address sex trafficking. The government has focused its resources on its internal conflict with the FARC. Additionally, most municipal government officials are unaware of specific human trafficking laws, and processes to prosecute traffickers and provide assistance to victims are convoluted and slow. Moreover, the government’s rampant corruption and connections to BACRIM groups dissuade many victims from seeking help.

Garrett and David’s research offers several recommendations to improve government efforts to prevent trafficking and assist victims. It focuses on bolstering prevention education programming, enhancing government coordination to fight sex trafficking, and increasing transparency of government funding to agencies and NGOs.

A Space for Women

One successful NGO based in Medellin, Colombia called Corporación Espacios de Mujer (A Space for Women) provides shelter, medical assistance, and job training to sex trafficking victims. Its founder, Betty Pedraza Lozano, recently received a State Department Trafficking in Persons “Hero” award. Organizations like this can lead the way in confronting Colombia’s sex trafficking crisis.

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About the Author
Lacey Bruske is a graduate from the George Washington University’s MA program in International Affairs. She hails from Portland, Oregon. Prior to attending GWU, she worked at the Department of Justice as an advocate for women who were victims of sex trafficking crimes and a legal assistant on drug trafficking crimes. She graduated from Utrecht University’s University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, The Netherlands with a B.A. in International Law and Foreign Relations. Her travels have taken her throughout Europe, but she hopes to broaden her scope to South America soon. Her academic interests include organized crime and trafficking of weapons, drugs and people.