The Fight for the Lost Souls :
MEXICO CITY, Jul 19 (IPS) – In June, the Department of Homeland Security made a critical announcement. For the first time in U.S. history, more than 15 state and local agencies and civil organizations conducted a major simultaneous binational operation to locate missing children inside and outside the United States.
They called it “Operation Lost Souls”. Its goal was to find girls and boys who went missing and possibly deceived or kidnapped by sexual exploitation gangs.
The covert operation lasted for a week. And the result announced by Special Agent Erik Breitzke surprised even the organizers: 24 minors were recovered and, among them, three were in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The report of the operation does not explain the state in which the minors were found. Still, it’s not hard to deduce why they were in Ciudad Juarez: The United Nations, international police and the Mexican Congress have warned that this border town is a well-known destination for sex tourism.
In 1993, this Mexican city became infamous around the world due to a phenomenon known as “Las muertas de Juarez”, where hundreds of feminicides were discovered under the suspicion that the victims had been recruited for. sexual slavery.
Over 28 years later, Ciudad Juarez is still a city known for its tolerance for prostitution, glittering brothels with hidden girls, and streets run by pimps and mafias linked to the porn industry. It is a paradise for pedophiles.
There is an explanation for this: in Ciudad Juárez, as in many other cities around the world, the fight against human trafficking has the wrong approach – the police often harass prostitutes, not customers. But there is a growing global movement calling for the opposite to be done.
This movement is also in vogue in Mexico and is inspired by the French law promulgated on April 13, 2016, which prohibits any sexual act consented to in exchange for money.
This is a simple but substantial change: to protect human rights, the law must not go against people trapped in prostitution but against customers. In other words, the authorities must attack the most powerful link in the chain, not the most vulnerable.
To this end, it is necessary to stop the criminalization of people trapped in prostitution and, on the contrary, to create incentives for their exit from the sex trade.
For example, designing self-employment programs, granting tax benefits to those who wish to leave prostitution, including them in a protected witness program with benefits, issuing temporary residence permits for foreigners who have not been able to obtain employment because of their immigration status, among other measures.
To achieve the goal of reducing sex trafficking and exploitation, the law must strongly target the demand that perpetuates these crimes. Sanctions for “customer exploiters” must be strengthened.
To prosecute them more effectively, Mexican activists are asking their government to imitate what the French police are doing by removing the burden of proof of soliciting from the victim.
French law has been a model of success, according to the Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution (CAP International): it has curbed the investment of traffickers, discouraged clients, provided dignified opportunities for the most vulnerable and swept aside the dangers of tolerance clandestinely.
This model also proved that pimps are less likely to “invest” in a country with such harsh measures against them. Because they see themselves as real businessmen, these progressive laws such as Swedish and French laws that provide heavy penalties for sex buyers are just not good for business.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in General Recommendation 38 (2020) on trafficking in human beings, encourages this new movement and calls on countries around the world to enforce it, especially in the context of a pandemic.
“The need to respond to demand that promotes sexual exploitation is important in the context of digital technology, which exposes potential victims to an increased risk of being trafficked,” warns the General Recommendation.
This global movement goes hand in hand with others that have shaken the world, such as #MeToo or the global protests against inequalities.
It is the voice of millions of people around the world, including Mexicans: never again a city where sex buyers are seen as mere clients and traffickers are treated as businessmen.
To raise awareness among Mexican lawmakers, from July 26 to August 6, we will be implementing the # 10Days and #VsTrafficking global campaign hand in hand with several international organizations that will inspire new activists to oppose exploiting clients and end the suffering of every lost soul in the world.
We are millions convinced of a revolutionary idea: abolishing prostitution does not limit sexual freedom, but motivates the sexual freedom that the world needs. The one who does not depend on money.
The author is a human rights activist who opened the first refuge for girls and adolescents rescued from commercial sexual exploitation in Mexico. She has published five books on the prevention of human trafficking; she is the elected representative of the GSN Global Sustainability Network in Latin America.
Follow IPS New UN Bureau on Instagram
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service