Child trafficking and sexual exploitation is spiraling out of control in Colombia’s second-biggest city Medellin with young girls being used as “sexual merchandise”, according to a local politician.
Luis Bernardo Montoya, a social worker and city council member for the political party Independent Social Alliance (ASI), told Colombia Reports that the city is becoming polluted with gangs utilizing young girls as products of sex for which they are often plied with hallucinogenic drugs and paid to appear in auction catalogs.
Montoya admitted that he fears this sleazy occurrence is becoming the norm in the city with tourists coming from all over the world desiring “young-looking girls.”
He also said how reports have indicated that in poor areas such as Comuna 5, 8 and 13 in particular, girls as young as 14 are being put up for auction via sordid catalogs so that clients can pick and choose the type they want.
Families receive a small amount of money for this but if they refuse they are often thrown out of the neighborhood or receive death threats.
Montoya said, “It has recently been reported that adolescents are being auctioned and in particular minors. Their families are receiving money to let them be in a catalog to offer sexual acts.”
“There are some reports that the child or family who do not allow this are banished, or forcibly displaced from the neighborhood. There are few complaints of this because people have a lot of fear with gangs threatening their lives if they report.”
“It is clear that these groups really like girls to be young and the younger they are the more money they pay them especially if they are virgins.”
Montoya added that the problem has worsened over the last few months and its frequency is so much so that it is becoming an unwelcome part of the culture in Medellin and one which is not being sufficiently prevented by the authorities.
“The issue of sexual violence, child abuse and exploitation of children is increasing. The problem of human trafficking is very visible but the authorities know that there is not a clear answer,” he added.
“It is of great concern that this socially and culturally is becoming a normal thing that our society has grown accustomed to. This happens in broad daylight in different parts of the city and nothing happens … we demand answers because the problem has worsened in recent months.”
The U.S. State Department reported in June that Medellin is among Colombia’s main sex tourism industries, citing the lack of effective prosecution of child sex tourists as a major problem.
According to mayor Anibal Gaviria, the increase in sex tourists in the city is due to the internationalization of the city. Medellin saw an 87% increase in foreign visits between 2006 and 2011.
When asked if he felt Medellin had a reputation for having a large prostitution industry around the world Montoya answered, “Yes, there is a problem of sex tourism which is offered through the city in a prepaid mode. Girls have said that many foreign clients seek Medellin girls that look very young, so there are companies looking to supply this.”
The age of consent in Colombia is 14, however, the law stipulates that it is illegal to engage in prostitution under 18 and Montoya believes that the authorities should be stronger when dealing with exploiters of children if they are to stand any chance of ridding the city of this despicable practice.
He added, “If these crimes are considered very serious in our country code then we must take action.”
“We have to dream that there are no children in Medellin on the streets or being exploited. We cannot allow this to continue… but there is only one possibility to stop this and that is to force the state to punish and prosecute people who are committing crimes.”