This post was originally written to explain my journey with CSE & trafficking... in honor of January 11th International Day of Awareness for Human Trafficking, I've decided to recycle it here...
|A "chica brillante" and nina trabajadora (working girl).|
These girls are at high risk of being trafficked and/or sexually exploited due to their
vulnerability working on the beaches alone, need for money/food/clothing, and innocence.
Rape and sexual assault plague every country around the world. Arguably, communities, families, and individuals attempt to deal with the consequences of sexual abuses in a realistic and helpful way, but in reality, many victims find themselves very alone during and after abuse. Rape myths are defined by psychologist Martha Burt as “prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists” (1980). As an undergraduate student at Drury University, I began studying rape myth acceptance, reporting tendencies, and the normalization of sexual violence. I found that liberal art’s collegiates accepted rape myth on a much lower scale than the general population but that a majority of victims and confidants were unwilling to report sexual assaults to authorities. During my studies, I focused a majority of my hypothesis on familiar sexual assault, which is the most common form of sexual assault and rape in the United States. My interest in sexual abuses led me to a position with Caminante Proyecto Educativo in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Caminante works to prevent sexual abuse of children especially those at risk of being trafficked into Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
Caminante, a local non-governmental organization, was created in the 1990s by a Dominican nun who was determined to address the needs of working children. Caminante’s mission became protecting children’s rights. I was introduced to Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and tourism at a Midwest Sociological Society conference in 2011. After presenting my own research on sexual violence, I attended a session given by a sociology professor and a retired police officer who “busted” brothels in East Asia by posing as tourists looking to have sex with young girls. The presentation was devastating, but the problem felt a world away. When the opportunity arose to work with Caminante, I was reintroduced to the severity of CSE in the Americas and the urgent need for local, national, and international attention and policy.
UNICEF defines CSE as “the use children for adult sexual satisfaction in exchange for remuneration in money or in kind, paid to the child or to a third party.” CSE can include, but is not limited to, child prostitution, child pornography, and using minors in sexual shows. CSE is committed daily in Boca Chica, a tourist town that gained popularity in the 1980s as a sex tourism destination because prostitution is legal and minors are readily available. Unfortunately, hotels, dance clubs, and restaurants allow tourists to break the law in order to accrue income and perpetuate tourism. Caminante found that in many cases of CSE, sex with minors was traded for food and clothing and that despite the fact that a majority of those interviewed reported seeing CSE, only 15% said they had reported the incident. For these reasons, Caminante and UNICEF joined forces with “The Code” and ECPAT in 2013 to prevent CSE of minors in Boca Chica.
Like most policy change, education and local opinions are the first steps. Caminante will continue to educate the local community, especially parents of exploited children, of children’s rights as defined by the Convention of Children’s rights and the legal obligation to uphold human rights. The new project will begin the process of creating a “code of conduct” and training series for hotels and other members of the tourist economy. Hotels will agree to require all hotel staff to be trained on recognizing CSE and follow a strict code to ensure that minor do not enter hotels and that tourists attempting to purchase minors for sexual uses will be prosecuted. While local steps are necessary, countries with tourist communities need strict policies for parents and traffickers of children as well as the abusers. In addition to domestic policy, the international community must agree on a just way to legally charge abusers of trafficked minors so they do not continue to slip through the system with little or no consequences, only to abuse other children.