According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) about 15,000 young people are being trafficked for sexual exploitation currently in Guatemala and for every victim that is rescued approximately 30 more are exploited and kept hidden. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Guatemala.
10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Guatemala
- Poverty is considered one of the main causes behind human trafficking, given that three in five people live on less than $3.10 a day. As a result, most victims are often uneducated, unemployed and are lured based on false promises of potential job opportunities. Domestic violence can also be a main driver, given the engrained patriarchal mentality that exists in this society. Often, human trafficking situations arise from domestic violence from male relatives, in turn causing young children to flee home where they are then submitted to the harsh realities of human trafficking conditions.
- Only four percent of human trafficking victims in Guatemala are actually Guatemalan citizens, meaning that about 96 percent of the people who are trafficked in Guatemala are not native Guatemalans. Since the majority of the victims come from neighboring countries, human trafficking can be linked with northern migration. Guatemala‘s neighbor countries, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, are all part of the C-4 visa area, which establishes that citizens of these countries can travel freely back and forth. This means Guatemala may be seen as an attractive location to relocate for economic purposes.
- Of the approximately 50,000 sex trafficking victims reported in Guatemala, almost 60 percent are children. It is very common to see girls as young as 12 years old working in brothels and being forced to have sex with upwards of 30 customers a day. In some cases, traffickers can be found at schools where they recruit virgin schoolgirls to partake in such acts. With the high number of children being sold for sex trafficking, the revenue is equivalent to 2.7 percent of Guatemala’s gross domestic product (GDP).
- Along with young children, women are also at higher risk for victimization. According to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CIGIG), women make up 64 percent of victims, of which several are little girls as young as eight years old. Because there is often a higher demand and willingness to pay more money for specific traits in girls such as virginity, traffickers must often target younger women.
- Although efforts are being made to stop human trafficking, only about three percent of cases are detected every year. Additionally, there are only two prosecutors country-wide who are working solely on sex trafficking cases. Because of this, human trafficking convictions in Guatemala are extremely low.
- Due to a misidentification of human trafficking victims, the number of victims is actually higher than what has been reported. Over the past five years, approximately 1,568 victims have been detected annually as human trafficking victims. Of these, 317 are sex trafficking victims and 810 are human trafficking victims.
- The Human Trafficking Institute has listed some of the challenges that Guatemalan authorities have faced when it comes to reducing and eliminating human trafficking. Some of these challenges include the human trafficking rings that currently exist, gang related crime and high levels of poverty. Furthermore, many victims include indigenous peoples who may not speak Spanish well enough or at all in order to report the traffickers to the respective authorities.
- The Guatemalan government has taken notice of the increasing problem of human trafficking and is taking the appropriate measures to stop it. The government has recently released its anti-trafficking action plan for 2018 to 2022, which establishes that it aims to provide a victim protection protocol in differing languages and dialects for those whose first language is not Spanish. Additionally, the government will open an anti-trafficking unit that will operate regionally and attempt to process and bring more traffickers to justice.
- Although a lack of education can lead people to become prey to human traffickers, becoming more educated can help survivors overcome the trauma they have undergone. Not only does education help victims but it can also prevent people from becoming victims by raising awareness of the problem and providing them with solutions to avoid being trafficked. Education can also help young people develop a skill or interest after the fact, in order to help them move on and lead a normal life.
- The UNODC has developed a trust fund in order to help victims of human trafficking. This program works by rescuing victims and slowly reintegrating them into society, while giving them a much-needed support system. However, this program not only benefits the victims of human trafficking, but it also aims to raise awareness and educate the general public in how to keep human trafficking from occurring at all.
These 10 facts about human trafficking in Guatemala shed light on what a pressing issue it is, however efforts are being made by the government as well as international organizations to continue progress in ending human trafficking worldwide.