Cuzco new “hot spot” of human trafficking in Peru

Cuzco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, is now the new “hot spot” for human trafficking in Peru, as child labor and sexual tourism are increasing at an alarming rate, a state prosecutor told the nation’s leading newspaper.

“Cuzco has became a place where minors, and especially adolescents, are being recruited to be taken to other provinces and exploited,” state prosecutor Sara Rivera said in comments to daily El Comercio.

In Peru’s jungles, the illegal exploitation of gold has dramatically increased the recruitment and coercion of adolescents into prostitution through false employment offers. Many of children and teenagers, aged 10 to 16, have been recruited in Cuzco. They are usually tricked into leaving their Andean towns and low-paying jobs as domestic employees for promised employment in laundromats or restaurants. But, most of them end up selling sexual services for 50 soles or about $17, in lawless enclaves where an unwritten law of silence and violence prevails.

“Human trafficking is the process by which people are contacted, offered an job opportunity, recruited and transferred so that they can later carry out activities against their will,” said Dolores Cortés, Project Director at the International Organization for Migration, or OIM. “This is a crime sanctioned by the Penal Code with up to 25 years in prison.”

Police in Cuzco arrested David Pacheco Huamañahui and Helí Dueñas Cari last week just as they were about to transfer 12 minors to Puerto Maldonado to work in gold mines and night clubs.  Most youngsters are recruited in schools and places where job offers are posted, such as markets and post offices.

They are offered jobs and told “that within a month they’ll be able to send money back home,” said Cortés.

In March 2006, Cuzco set up a hotline for the prevention of human trafficking and victim protection. So far 11,000 calls have been registered, of which 96 percent were official reports.

According to sources from the Ministry of Interior, daily El Comercio reported, most tips led police to investigate cases involving young boys and girls being sent to Peru’s capital, Lima, as well as the Amazonian department of Madre de Dios, and Juliaca, Puno’s largest city and capital of the San Román province.

In Peru, a country of origin for the trafficking of persons to Europe and the United States, children continue to be the most vulnerable and least protected citizens. Of the 3.8 million people living in extreme poverty, 2.1 million are children, with more than 60% of the under-18 population living below the poverty line.

Most victims are girls and young women from the poorest and least developed regions of this Andean country, recruited and coerced into prostitution in urban nightclubs, bars, and brothels, often through false employment offers.

Child labour also remains a grave problem as both children and adults are trafficked into conditions of forced labor in Peru’s mining, logging, agriculture, fishing, and brick-making sectors.

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2008 Report on Trafficking in Persons, Peruvians trafficked abroad for commercial sexual exploitation are mainly sent to Ecuador, Spain, Japan, Italy, and the United States.

A comprehensive anti-trafficking law was passed in 2007, but the implementing regulations have yet to be approved.

And, according to the United Nations, “the limited awareness among the population on sexual exploitation and abuse and on the available measures to identify and report cases of abuse is also a matter of concern.”

But though Peru does not entirely fulfill the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking of persons, it is making considerable efforts to do so.

The Child and Adolescent Code prohibits forced labor, economically exploitative labor, prostitution, and trafficking, and Peru’s Penal Code, as amended in 2004, provides that a person who forces another to work without payment by means of violence or threat may be punished with imprisonment for up to two years.

The Penal Code prohibits pimping and the promotion of prostitution of minors, with a penalty of five to 12 years of imprisonment if the victim is under 18 years of age.

And in 2002, Peru ratified ILO Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, and ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

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