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Human Trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, or transfer of humans using any form of threat for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation could mean prostitution, forced labor or practices similar to slavery and servitude. In 2018, it was determined that the government of Mexico was not meeting the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking. While Mexico is making strides in the number of prosecutions made and the amount of support given to victims, in 2018 the government obtained fewer convictions than in previous years, identified fewer victims, provided more limited services to victims and maintained a disproportionately low amount of shelters compared to its magnitude of the human trafficking industry. The following 10 facts about human trafficking in Mexico provide further insight into its expansive presence in the country.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Mexico

  1. Mexico has the largest number of victims of modern slavery than any other country in the Americas. Mexico, along with the Philippines and the United States, was ranked one of the world’s worst places in terms of human trafficking in 2018. Mexico is also thought to be the largest source country for trafficking across international borders. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are approximately 341,000 victims of modern slavery in Mexico.
  2. Those most at risk are women, children, indigenous people, people with mental or physical disabilities, migrants and LGBTQ individuals. The United States estimated about 70 percent of human trafficking victims in the US come from Mexico, with 50 percent of those individuals being minors. Women and children are often used for prostitution and sex trafficking, while many Mexican men are coerced into forced labor, often for use by drug cartels. Additionally, individuals traveling or migrating alone are at a higher risk for trafficking.
  3. One major reason for the presence of human trafficking in Mexico is the social and economic disparity. Many victims are also victims of poverty, and they become trapped in trafficking after being lured from poorer regions with a promise of employment and income. In 2016, 43.6 percent of Mexican citizens were living below the poverty line. UNICEF reports that traffickers specifically seek out individuals who are financially vulnerable, as they are more likely to accept illegitimate job offers due to desperate circumstances. Solo migrants traveling without family or any other individuals are often the most vulnerable victims due to their isolation.
  4. Out of 150,000 children living on the streets in Mexico, it is estimated that 50 percent are victims of trafficking for sexual purposes. Many traffickers use Mexico as a route to smuggle children into the United States and Canada. Often, these children stay and become victims in Mexico, and the numbers of exploited children in Mexico continue to rise.
  5. In June of 2019, the Mexican government announced an end to funding for human trafficking non-government organizations (NGO’s). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador justified the cut with reasons of corruption, believing that the funding for these NGO’s would end up in the wrong hands. Instead, the new plan is to open government-funded and government-run shelters for victims of human trafficking. Many people question the ability of the government to run shelters and provide victims with the care and support needed. George Mason University professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, who has studied the connection between organized crime and trafficking, explains: “Any mention of the topic is really very general… it doesn’t seem to be a priority.”
  6. Victims of human trafficking are at very high risk for repeated trafficking due to Mexico’s policies of prioritizing arrests of illegal immigrants and individuals engaging in prostitution. As a result, victims often have very little chance of social services or legal aid, and instead, are put at a higher risk for re-victimization and repeated trafficking. Opportunities for help and support were mostly offered by NGO’s in Mexico, and without proper funding for these organizations, the Mexican government assigns a low priority to services for victims.
  7. Mexican trafficking victims are even more vulnerable to sex trafficking due to issues of forced migration. An overwhelmingly high number of victims come from unstable countries in Latin America. In 2017, 14,596 people applied for asylum in Mexico. Due to government instability, violence due to the presence of drug cartels, and conflict within the country, migrant victims are at higher risk for vulnerability in a new country, and therefore, at a higher risk for becoming a victim of human trafficking in Mexico.
  8. In March of 2019, the Mexican government released statements announcing their goal to probe into the current “failing” anti-human trafficking policies in place. The technical secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Commission Against Human Trafficking, Felix Santana, publicly recognized the shortcomings of previous policies. With more emphasis and government dedication to supporting victims and survivors, solutions are becoming more promising for ending human trafficking in Mexico.
  9. Another step in the direction of ending human trafficking is the raising of awareness and visibility of the issue, specifically for Mexican youths. For example, the Pan American Development Foundation facilitated a partnership between MTV Americas and the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to create a mass media campaign, including a documentary focusing on real examples of trafficked youth.
  10. In the meantime, there are many organizations in Mexico dedicated to ending human trafficking and assisting and supporting victims. For example, El Pozo de Vida provides a safe-house for victims and offers food, water, shelter, education, clothing and counseling. The creation of more organizations to assist in the rehabilitation of victims is crucial in alleviating the extreme damage done by human trafficking in Mexico.

It is believed that the number of victims of human trafficking in Mexico would decrease with strengthened law enforcement, acknowledgment of the expansivity of the problem and additional training for victim identification.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

MTV Exit Fights Human Trafficking - The Borgen Project
MTV, in cooperation with USAID, Australian Aid and ASEAN, has launched an awareness campaign targeted at young people called MTV Exit, which seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

The program seeks to educate young people in the region and around the world about human trafficking through media campaigns such as music videos, informational videos and through other interactive tools. A significant number of these tools are also specifically targeted toward young people in the Asia-Pacific region who are disproportionately affected by human trafficking globally.

Part of the campaign includes what MTV calls an Exit Map, available on the campaign’s home page. The Exit Map is a 6-hour workshop through which anyone can educate a target group about human trafficking, the ways to prevent trafficking and methods for helping survivors.

The first part of the workshop focuses on making participants feel comfortable around each other and with the instructor so that the many difficult topics associated with human trafficking can be more easily and freely discussed. According to the workshop, it is important to make sure people feel they are in a safe environment so that misconceptions and myths about trafficking can be most easily debunked.

Another focus of the workshop is on the danger of taking risks. Trafficking takes place when traffickers take advantage of people in vulnerable situations trying to pursue their dreams. They often lure young people with promises of fantastic jobs and good wages, knowing that they are more likely to take chances in order to achieve their dreams.

The Exit Map workshop tries to educate people about how to spot traffickers. It teaches people to ask the right questions of potential employers and to use a hotline in order to identify whether an advertised job is run by a legitimate company or if it is merely a hoax used by traffickers to capture people.

MTV’s definition of human trafficking is “when someone is recruited, moved, held, or received in order to be exploited.” According to the campaign, human trafficking is a process that includes more than just exploiting the person; it involves recruiting, holding and moving the person in order to exploit them. Therefore the issue must be addressed at all levels of the process in order to most effectively combat it. Educating people about how to spot illegitimate job offers, for example, attempts to combat the recruiting phase of trafficking.

The campaign also emphasizes that traffickers can be anyone and that trafficking is a business facilitated by the demand for cheap products in other countries like the United States. As long as people keep demanding cheap products, people in other countries will continue to be trafficked into forced labor in order to make these cheap products. Therefore MTV emphasizes that consumers should be educated on where and how goods are made and whether slavery took place in any part of the supply chain, which means holding companies accountable for inspecting their supply chains and addressing slavery where it exists.

MTV also seeks to educate young people about the many different types of trafficking. When most people think of trafficking, their first thought sex trafficking, but it also includes forced labor, debt bondage, trafficking into domestic work, child adoption and trafficking of women for surrogacy, trafficking for the removal of organs and trafficking for marriage.

The last point that MTV hopes to emphasize through its Exit Map education plan is that vulnerability is not the cause of human trafficking. Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, lack of education and gender inequalities do not cause trafficking. These things make it easier for traffickers to exploit and take advantage of people, but traffickers are the cause of trafficking.

As long as there are people willing to exploit other people in vulnerable situations, trafficking will exist. Therefore, tackling the problem is two-fold. Improve people’s situations so that traffickers are no longer able to take advantage of vulnerability and educate vulnerable people about how to spot traffickers effectively cutting off trafficker’s supply of easily exploitable vulnerable human beings; this is how to combat human trafficking.

— Erin Sullivan

Sources: Mumbrella, MTV Exit 1, MTV Exit 2, MTV Exit 3, MTV Exit 4, MTV Exit 5, MTV Exit 6
Photo: Tumblr

MTV
The president of MTV, Stephen Friedman, has added pushing a social change campaign to his agenda for the long-standing music television network. Friedman joined the company in 1998 to create the department of Strategic Partnerships and Public Affairs, but social responsibility has always been a major part of his life. Friedman is also fascinated with the strong effect the media can have on people, particularly teenagers and young adults.

After Friedman graduated from Wesleyan University, he worked for the nonprofit organization, PEN American Center, which helps encourage the fight for free expression and stands up for those who don’t have freedoms of speech or expression. It was during his time with PEN that Friedman realized how powerful the media can be to encourage social responsibility, and he gravitated more towards the media industry, working at a media consulting firm and contacted later by MTV for the Strategic Partnership and Public Affairs position.

Friedman’s first major action of social change with MTV came when he was head of mtvU, the company’s college network, and he developed the Darfur is Dying video game.  He realized that college students were upset over the conflicts in Darfur in 2004, so to educate more people about the issue, he created the viral game. The game was so popular MTV was awarded the Governor’s Emmy Award and set the bar for other companies.

One of MTV’s more popular pushes to create social change is through their hit shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. These shows were intended to demonstrate the unglamorous life of young mothers who unintentionally become pregnant and encourage education about unprotected sex at a young age. Although some people disagree with the shows’ messages, believing that these programs do, in fact, glamorize pregnancy by turning teen mothers into TV stars, the CDC’s 2010 report shows that teen pregnancies are at a record low in the US, and many experts claim that MTV’s programs have been a factor in the decrease.

MTV has evolved over the years. What started as a station only for music videos has morphed into a network that promotes social responsibility and change through educational and entertaining programs. The company has learned that it can multitask to be able to encourage responsibility among young adults while still giving them something fun to watch.

Katie Brockman
Sources: Fast Company, PEN American Center
Photo: MTV

An Anti-Slavery Campaign Called "The Backstory"An anti-slavery campaign called The Backstory has been launched by MTV. Inspired by the winning entry of mtvU’s “Against Our Will” project, the campaign will feature an interactive website with dance videos showing how women and immigrants are trafficked into prostitution and forced labor. The project is focused on demonstrating how trafficking is an issue that can strike anyone and what can be done to counter it.

Collaborating with the anti-slavery campaign are rapper Talib Kweli and dancers from Ailey II. “Ailey II is honored to provide the visual embodiment of these powerful backstories of human labor and sex trafficking,” said Troy Powell, Ailey II’s artistic director. “This is the first time we have participated in an effort such as this one, and it is rewarding to be able to bring awareness to such a worthy cause.”

The winning entry of mtvU’s “Against Our Will” project came from four students at James Madison University. The goal of the project was to find an innovative way to utilize the internet to bring awareness to modern-day slavery. Anti-human trafficking organizations working alongside the “Against Our Will” anti-slavery campaign include the Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, and Girls Educational and Mentoring Services.

“We hope to move viewers to take action and share what they have learned with their friends and networks,” added Powell.

Rafael Panlilio

Source: CNNMTV