Don Riddell from CNN took a look at how the Dominican Republic is fighting sex trafficking.
Up until 2003, the country did not have any laws to prevent human trafficking, but there is a big difference between passing appropriate legislation and using resources to enforce it.
In 2013, International Justice Mission (IJM), an anti-trafficking NGO, set up a mission to help. Fernando Rodriguez, the Field Office Director of IJM Dominican Republic, explained the problem:
“We are looking for cases and confronting cases of children being sold for sex, children being paid to have sex by pedophiles, the production of pornography using children.”
He also recounted a case where a mother was accused of producing pornography with her 5 and 7 year-old-girls.
When IJM arrived, they learned through their baseline research that children were being sold in 90% of the communities they studied in the Dominican Republic. Experts say that the core problem is poverty. The World Bank reports that 1/3 of Dominicans live below the poverty level.
Daisy Nunez, Director of Aftercare at IJM, explained that it is not unusual for girls there to become ’emancipated’ at 11 -15 years of age. They are easy targets because they are alone, on their own, and need money to survive.
The going price tag to have sex with a minor is only $20, and it is not just a problem caused by international tourists; abusers are locals too. It is estimated that half of the children are taken by their perpetrators to motel-like rooms that rent for as low as $10. Perplexingly, many of these children do not even see themselves as victims.
Still, Nunez has hope. Despite the scale of the problem, she believes that the government is doing their best with the resources they have.
Rodriquez says that in 2015 the human trafficking department of the national police did not conduct a single rescue, but this year IJM has engaged in five rescues in cooperation with police. “It’s beginning to change, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”