Human trafficking is a modern scourge that affects all parts of the globe.
It can rip families and communities apart and includes sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage, illegal adoption, organ removal, and forced begging – all of which exist in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Trafficking in Persons (TIP) affects women, men, girls, and boys, and especially vulnerable populations such as migrants, LGBT, and indigenous peoples.
Women and children are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and more likely than men to become victims. Therefore, it is essential to use gender-sensitive approaches that foster women’s inclusion and leadership. Empowering women creates solid foundations that serve as a vector for lasting social change.
Developing prevention techniques among policymakers, civil society and law enforcement are among the most effective measures to stop TIP. When prevention fails, prosecution, incarceration, and restoring victims are the subsequent steps that entail significantly higher costs. Establishing community-based mechanisms is essential to foster local support for TIP prevention.
PADF has taken a local approach to prevention, recognizing that local residents are able to reach at-risk groups in their own language and culture. PADF has trained those groups to spot the indicators of human trafficking and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
Women and girls represent the majority of TIP victims, and their experience with TIP differs from that of men and boys. Women and girls are usually trafficked for marriage and sexual exploitation, while men and boys are trafficked into forced labor. Each group requires specific adaptive services, but governments are often too strained to provide them adequately.
PADF has supported government agencies and local NGOs to provide improved protection services, legal assistance, and psychosocial support to trafficking victims, both in shelters and in their home communities.
An effective criminal justice system deters criminal violations and guarantees that the rule of law is enforced if a violation is committed. Although governments are chiefly responsible for prosecution, PADF places special emphasis on linking indigenous and local structures with national justice systems to increase effectiveness.
PADF has strengthened the prosecution effectiveness of indigenous authorities in Bolivia, whose justice systems take precedence in many areas of the countryside.
Partnerships and cooperation between NGOs, international organizations, governments, and civil society organizations are key to accomplishing an effective approach to combat TIP.
PADF has worked with local women’s organizations and indigenous groups to train and support their community members. In turn, they coordinate with and apply pressure to municipal officials to strengthen local TIP prevention and response systems.
PADF worked alongside Bolivia’s Indigenous Authorities, who hold power in rural parts of the country.
Working alongside indigenous community leaders in rural Bolivia, PADF trained 450 women to become Community Defenders to raise awareness, train community members, and work with indigenous authorities with the capacity of prosecution. Community Defenders provide improved protection services, legal assistance, and psychosocial support to trafficking victims and have trained more than 4,500 community members to become community defenders as well. The success from this program has allowed us to implement similar initiatives in Guatemala as well.