We have not escaped the age of slavery. Today, slavery continues in the form of human trafficking.
According to the FBI, the definition of human trafficking encompasses the exploitation of people being bought, sold or smuggled like slaves and often starved, beaten, or forced into prostitution. Currently, people are forced into human trafficking through different means such as kidnapping. Difficulties with human trafficking still arise throughout the Americas, specifically South America. While there are many organizations working against the practice of human trafficking, there remains a large group who face the struggles of modern slavery. Many encounter the effects of human trafficking travelling across the borders of South American countries. Unfortunately, these crimes are not efficiently convicted or even reported; countries of South America continue to struggle with human trafficking. According to UNODC, only 10% of all investigated are convicted. Only Peru has convicted more than 50 people in two years. Throughout South America, young women and girls are still specifically targeted for sex trafficking – a growing trade.
Across Latin America, there is a black market with demands for everything, including other humans. The modern, globalized world has increased travel and boosted the economy for many South American countries. Unfortunately, an increase in travel has also increased the demand for sex trafficked individuals. Near the Iguazú Falls of Argentina, women are being exploited at an alarming rate due to the increase of tourism. This area, in particular, has become known for the demand for prostitutes as a part of sex tourism. Growing from previous demands for prostitution, the idea of sex trafficking is spreading throughout the surrounding regions. This situation has sadly become a norm in Puerto Igazú. The Guardian previously reported a story on a blind beggar offering a 7-year-old girl for sex as his means of income. The girl is not even his but rather his neighbours. Acts of sexual exploitation have become the norm across many South American countries. For example, on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, many girls and women are tempted with the promise of a better life and become prostitutes as a consequence. Once caught in these circumstances, the girls are violently threatened by their brothel owners and find it almost impossible to leave. Furthermore, even if they do manage to escape, it is unlikely that the women would be accepted back into their communities.
It is almost universally agreed that sex trafficking is a problem. The individuals trapped in those circumstances need a way out; however, the vicious cycle continues without intervention. How can we break this cycle? The answer: education. Hypothetically, by increasing the literacy rates and knowledge in the population, the entire nation will continue to prosper across all fronts. Increasing the literacy levels of an entire nation is a difficult feat. However, the integration of youth programs will provide the necessary foundations to witness the drop of human sex trafficking across Latin America. The increase in police and citizen awareness would help to identify sex trafficking sooner and provide trafficked victims with an opportunity to reach out for help.