I came to Peru to study how the illegal mining for gold in Madre de Dios province, on the Peruvian border with Brazil and Bolivia, has increased prostitution and human trafficking. The weak presence of the state, combined with the opening of the Interoceánica highway, the growth of illegal mining for gold, the trafficking of goods (arms, drugs) and people, and a high rate of population increase have resulted on severe social, cultural and environmental effects in the area.
According to a research conducted by INFOS Peru, for every new illegal mining camp in MDD, 45 “prostibares” (brothels) open, and between 2004 and 2011 there were close to 1.700 denounces of human trade in the area (RETA). In MDD, the illegal mining camps have grown keeping pace with brothels.
Despite the core of my research was in Madre de Dios, my fieldwork started in Lima. Before going to the field, I needed to have a bigger picture on how human trafficking for sexual exploitation was understood by the Peruvian state. I interviewed Ricardo Valdés, from Capital Humano y Social Alternativo, an NGO specialized in human trafficking.
According to the information provided by Valdés, despite Peru subscribed the Palermo Protocol to confront human trafficking in 2002, it was not until the negotiation for a free trade agreement with the US that the Peruvian government started to take action against the crime. If the Peruvian state proved incapable of fulfilling the compromise acquired after the subscription of the protocol, the FTA would not progress. Therefore, in 2004 the state created the “Departamento de investigaciones contra la Trata de Personas e Investigaciones Especiales,” and soon after the “Grupo Multisectorial Permanente contra la Trata de Personas.” The FTA came trough in 2004.
Before the state, the NGO Capital Humano y Social Alternativo was the leading institution against human trafficking in Peru. They implemented a system for denouncing cases of human disappearing, and in 2003 registered 11,875 cases of people missing. 4,268 were girls. With concrete numbers, the Registro Único Nacional de Personas Desaparecidas was created in 2003, and in 2005 the project RETA (Registro y Estadística del delito de Trata de Personas y Afines), which later the state adopted as the official system for taking track of the victims. According to Valdés, the lack of resources to maintain the system, and the little interest showed by the state had as a consequence the failure of the RETA. “It is not working anymore,” he said.
It was not until 2007 that the Peruvian Legislative Power typified human trafficking as a crime through the Law 28950. It took one year to adequate the state and give specific responsibilities to the parties. Finally, the Peruvian legislation fulfilled the Palermo Protocol.
According to Valdés, one of the biggest challenges the Peruvian state faces in the fight against human trafficking is that the crime is “new” in the constitution, and the state and competent authorities don’t fully understand it.
Posted by Rosario Yori – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU