Written By: Lindsay H. and Hannah W.
Sex tourism is a global phenomenon, and Latin America is a trending destination for tourists looking to exploit young girls. Is this your first time hearing about sex tourism? If so, buckle up. It’s evil and tearing its way through vulnerable lives. Sex tourism is exactly what it sounds like. “Tourists” go-to destinations to have sex with girls. Young girls. Where there is demand, there are services provided, and girls are paying the price.
“Child sex tourism is a serious problem, with child sex tourists arriving mostly from the United States and Europe.” – The US State Department 2020 TIP Report.
You might be wondering who takes “sex tours.” You would be surprised by the answer. Every trafficked girl we have interviewed for the last 5 years has told us her number one client base is North Americans. As we’ve walked around the cities and researched the issue, this continues to prove true. These are not people you would look at and label “predator.” These are people you would see in your middle-class, suburban neighborhood. What some would label a “Latin America issue” is actually knocking at our front door.
In Latin America, the younger a girl is, the more a client will pay. Traffickers target and begin grooming early. In a region riddled with teenage, single-parent households, Latin America is a perfect breeding ground for traffickers. As is true all over the world, poverty is a powerful force fueling human trafficking. Traffickers target girls who have needs they can’t meet on their own. They promise them help, and in bait and switch, hand them a life of slavery. When a single teen mom has no way to pay for food, diapers or a home for her child, traffickers step in.
Some would say that Sex Tourism has nothing to do with Human Trafficking. But that perspective is incredibly misguided. Under the guise of legal prostitution, there are countless trafficked women and children in Latin America exploited daily.
Once you see it, you cannot unsee it.
Sex tourism. Human trafficking. The sexual exploitation of children. Pick a name. It’s everywhere and it’s destroying lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Sex tourism supports human trafficking (slavery), one of the largest criminal industries in the world…Millions of children around the world are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Children abused by sex tourists suffer not only sexual abuse but also physical, emotional, and psychological abuse, as well as poverty and homelessness. They suffer from health problems including addiction, malnourishment, injuries, STIs and emotional trauma.”
There are 40.3 million slaves worldwide and at least 53 different countries reporting concerns of child sex tourism, with several of those falling within Latin America (The US State Department 2020 TIP Report.) The need to act and speak up against this horrific practice is incredibly urgent.
This is why we are building a rescue and rehabilitation home to serve these girls. The Latin America rescue facility will offer residential care to trafficked girls. This home will help these girls find hope through group and individual counseling. And ultimately, it will educate and equip them with marketable skills as they build towards healing and a future.
In the midst of a terribly dark and evil trend such as sex tourism, we still see hope on the horizon. The reality is, you may be the only voice these girls have. Will you join us in the fight to end human trafficking?