The trafficking of women in Latin America has increased with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to church activists who support the victims of sexual and labor exploitation in the region. Perpetrators have also changed how they lure and abuse young women, mainly by using digital devices.
“The economic crisis left many women without any income. Poverty, confinement and amplified violence generated a situation of more vulnerability for them,” said Carmen Ugarte García, an oblate sister and coordinator of Red Rahamim, a Mexican network of religious people who support victims and work on prevention.
Sister Ugarte’s movement is part of the Rome-based Talitha Kum, a network of initiatives led by women religious congregations against human trafficking. On July 30, the World Day Against Trafficking, several of the Latin American Talitha Kum members reported an escalation in activity, Sister Ugarte told America.
“Reporting [it] has always been something hard and scary for those women. Now it’s even more difficult, given that throughout the continent the police and the courts are much more inaccessible, with the imposition of social distancing measures,” she said.
Traffickers transport women from Central and South America through Mexico, Sister Ugarte said. Even though travel through Latin America is now restricted because of the pandemic, traffickers continue to victimize migrants and refugees. Within Mexico’s borders, young women have been abused in several ways.
“Many women are homeless, so they have to prostitute themselves to pay the rent. Others are forced by their own husbands to do so—something that has increased during the Covid-19 crisis,” she said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, with hotels shut down, trafficked women were forced to meet with men on the street or in their own homes. In Mexican coastal tourist destinations, Sister Urgarte reported, there has been a sharp climb in violence against women. At the same time, the confinement brought about by the pandemic boosted digital forms of recruiting and abusing teenagers and young women.
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Category: Around the World