Colombia’s ministry of labor and the United Nations on Tuesday signed an agreement to combat labor exploitation leaving internal sexual trafficking unaddressed.
“The issue of trafficking has to do with sexual exploitation, but mainly labor exploitation, i.e. some form of forced labor,” said Rafael Pardo, Colombia’s minister of labor
Though combatting labor exploitation is necessary, Pardo understated the elephant in the room — sexual trafficking.
According to a 2012 report from the United Nations, the majority of human trafficking in Colombia and worldwide is for sexual exploitation.
It is widely considered that Colombian officials are under-informed, underfunded, and generally unprepared to tackle the massive domestic human rights issue.
According to the U.S. State Department, “this form of trafficking [sexual] is greatly under-reported and under-identified by [Colombian] officials.”
International trafficking crimes are handled by a special prosecutor, whereas internal crimes are left up to local authorties. According to the U.S. State Department report, programs for recovering domestic victims are nonexistant. The sole center for trafficking internal victims, run by an NGO, closed after a short run due to lack of funding.
Though the Colombian government has offered to prosecute more internal trafficking crimes, victims are reportedly terrified of cooperating for fear of reprisal.
In 2010, the Colombian government reported 91 transnational and internal trafficking victims. In 2011, authorities reported 21 trafficking victims, 20 of whom were subjected to sex trafficking including one child.
Identifying sexual trafficking victims in Colombia proves problematic as prostitution is legal.