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Human Trafficking, Sex Abuse and Slayings Persist in the Americas

Jerry Brewer -
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December 11, 2012

The Women of Juarez - Short documentary on the women behind the "job." (luis saenz)

Although the term "femicides" has been colloquially defined as "the systematic killing of women due to their gender," there are a myriad of scholarly and political opinions in defining and describing the staggering death statistics that continue to manifest the deception, abduction, ritual abuse, exploitation, and carnage of women in Latin America.

The term "people smuggling" shares a difference from the term human trafficking that has been described as voluntary, covert transport from one location or country to another.  In most situations, there may not be any deception involved in this agreement. Freedom for the smuggled party to continue on their way at the agreed to destination is usually permitted.

Human trafficking is described as a "crime against humanity." The act generally involves elements of (and/or) abduction, recruiting, transporting, transfer, harboring or "receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power ...," as defined by the United Nations (UNODC). This, mainly for the purpose of exploitation.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that "eight in ten human trafficking cases involve the sex industry; the others involve labor trafficking." Moreover, they state that human trafficking has become the second-fastest-growing criminal industry - "just behind drug trafficking." Annually, human trafficking worldwide is estimated to be around US$40 billion.

As far back as 2006 the numbers of those trafficked for sexual exploitation numbered approximately 800,000, according to U.S. Government sponsored research. This figure did not include "millions trafficked within their own countries." Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors. These numbers also do not include "millions of both males and females globally who are trafficked within their own national borders - the majority for forced or bonded labor."

Mexico has not been immune to such shameful misery. Since 2000 more than 3,800 women and young girls were murdered in Mexico, and many remain missing. Guatemala also finds itself facing the horrors of femicides.

In Guatemala City, Guatemala, femicides have claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 women and girls since 2001. Women live in constant fear of being snatched from the streets by gangs, or forced off buses at gunpoint into empty lots. The majority of victims of femicides have been described as virtually unrecognizable, due to torture and sexual mutilation.

However, there is nothing complicated about describing many of the crime scenes in which women's bodies are recovered from alleyways and rubbish dumps.

Many of these murders go beyond the typical aspects of murder investigation. The "overkill and depersonalization" of these victims is generally attributed to psychopathic personalities. However, with skilled homicide investigation methodologies utilized, consistent patterns and techniques of similar modus operandi could be attributed to serial killers as an example of the mindset in this enigma.

Within Latin America the death toll attributed to femicides alone, from a profiling standpoint, can be simply described as the acts of recreational, hedonistic or lust murderers. These are individuals who hunt and kill human prey for personal enjoyment.

Many police officials in Mexico, Guatemala, and other regions are quick to minimize the women's murders by saying that the death rates overall in their respective nations are higher for men. Although not wrong, what they fail to acknowledge is the differences in the manner of death.

A clear and different dimension exists in these ferocious attacks and murders in which many of the women were abducted, held captive for days and subjected to humiliation, torture and the most horrific sexual violence before dying, often as a result of asphyxiation caused by strangulation - or from being beaten. Their bodies found days or years later, hidden among rubble or abandoned in deserted areas near cities. In Mexico, officials continue to locate mass graves of murdered and tortured migrant workers and kidnap victims, as well as gang rivals.

Victims of femicides are part of a much more prolific conundrum. In fact, many social scientists describe this femicides enigma as a result of women being categorized as "expendable, usable, abusable, and disposable within societies of inequality, displacement, and extreme poverty." Essentially, they have been seen to be there to service the needs of others.

Guatemalan women face incredible violence and impunity. Trafficking of women and children continues due to extreme poverty and their natural vulnerability, which reflects them as objects of manipulation. There are few arrests and rare convictions to what is described as "government impunity."

A large influx of human trafficking in Argentina for sexual purposes has demonstrated that potential victims are typically picked out by "neighbours, street vendors, or cab drivers who work as look-outs for sex trafficking rings." The victims are then assaulted in the street, forced into a car, and taken to a hideout.

These horrific trafficking crimes reflect not only a form of discrimination, but also violations of the rights to life, physical integrity, liberty, security and legal protection. This clearly places the State's obligation to investigate and dispense justice. Failure to act is no option and a criminal abuse of authority.

Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

  Check out Banderas Bay Women’s Shelter

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