Human traffickers in Mexico are holding children hostage as a tactic to force their mothers into sex work, campaigners warn.
These same traffickers often lure their young female victims by posing as their boyfriends. In some cases, these men even marry and have children with women they traffick.
Thus, when a woman forced into sex work does not earn her weekly quota, disobeys rules, or tries to escape, traffickers threaten to keep or harm their children.
“A way that traffickers coerce their victims in Mexico is by getting them pregnant, and then removing the child from their care,” said Rosi Orozco, who heads the Commission United Against Human Trafficking, a Mexican non-governmental organisation.
“She is then threatened continually that she will never see her child again if she doesn’t do as she is told.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
In the past five years, about 400 victims of sex trafficking have suffered this way, according to Teresa Ulloa, Latin America regional director for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
Victims are commonly women and girls aged 15 to 25 living in impoverished areas across Mexico, Ulloa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Women are lured with false offers of work as dancers or models in cities in Mexico and the United States only to be forced into prostitution on the streets and in brothels, she said.
In parts of the central Mexican states of Puebla and Tlaxcala, sex trafficking is usually a family-run business, and the children of victims become property of local gangs, according to Ulloa.
“There’s, like, the godfather, the head of the family, then the whole family below him plays a role, some in looking after the children,” Ulloa said.
Over the past ten years, federal authorities have investigated 169 cases of human trafficking in Puebla and Tlaxcala.
However, prosecution has been difficult because women who have been victimized are usually unwilling to testify if their children are still in their trafficker’s hands. They want the authorities to rescue their kids before they testify.
Jorge Sosa, a lawyer and anti-trafficking campaigner in Puebla, added that sex trafficking has grown so common in Tlaxcala that “It’s accepted in families that children prepare and aspire to become pimps.”
“Children even feel proud of saying that when they grow up they want to be pimps.”