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.
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.
For more information about this topic, check out these links:
- 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report: Colombia, U.S. State Department
- Sex trafficking ‘staggering’ in illegal Latin American gold mines: researchers, Anastasia Moloney, Reuters
- Colombian Drug Lords Seek Virgins for Sex Slaves: Reports, Jaime Saldarriaga, Newsweek