The United States ambassador signed a $200,000 grant to a prostitution rehab center in San José Tuesday.
The approved grant for Fundación Rahab, “Prevención, protección, promoción de procesos penales y atención de mujeres adultas y adolescentes víctimas de trata para explotacion sexual,” has an emphasis to strengthen ports and borders with education on human trafficking and prostitution. The project was signed by Anne S. Andrew, U. S. ambassador, along with Mariliana Morales, director of Fundación Rahab; Marcela Chacon, viceminister of Gobernación, Policia y Seguirdad Pública; and María Otero, U.S. undersecretary of State for citizen security, democracy and global issues.
According to Ms. Morales the areas of the ports and borders are the most vulnerable for human trafficking and prostitution. The money allocated for the Fundación Rahab will allow the organization to establish more teams to teach prevention workshops and to extend a television campaign to fight human trafficking.
“The law will not change if we do not get active and demand change,” said Ms. Morales.
Costa Rica doesn’t have a specific law or decree that makes prostitution illegal. It is neither legal or illegal, said the director of Rahab. She referred to the situation as a vacio.
However, Ambassador Andrew insisted in an interview that prostitution was against the law here.
“Prostitution is practiced and is accepted here, especially since it has become part of ordinary culture in Costa Rica,” said Ms. Morales.
Although sex tourism is not promoted by the Costa Rican tourism institute, the country is well known for this activity via the Web. Tourists come to enjoy inexpensive sex with women and men. Jacó, San Carlos and San José are the bigger problem areas for sex exploitation, according to the Fuerza Pública.
There isn’t a law that penalizes prostitution in Costa Rica, but there is Article 172 from the penal code that has a penalty of from six to 10 years of jail time for anyone that promotes, facilitates or enables human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is modern slavery,” said Ambassador Andrew.
Ms. Otero added: “This is an issue that affects the whole world, it’s even in the United States.”
Fundación Rahab has received grants from the U.S. government in the past. The foundation tries to train former prostitutes for the conventional labor market.
None of the foundation’s clients was at the press conference Tuesday when the grant was announced.