I am writing in response to the recent article run in A.M. Costa Rica regarding the U.S. Embassy’s donation to a rehabilitation program for former prostitutes and the follow up commentary titled “U.S. out of step with Costa Rican reality on human trafficking.”
The issues addressed in these articles are complex. The solutions not so clear. I would like to address one issue which I believe is clear: Sexual exploitation of minors. First some thought-provoking questions:
Is a 12-year old in a position to make a decision about prostituting themselves? Should a parent compel their child to sell themselves for economic reasons? Does that parent really have a choice? What would that child do if they were given a choice? Are we naive in thinking that they should have a choice?
Other questions: Who is responsible? Is there blame here? Should someone be punished? Who and how? Should we focus on the perpetrator or the victim, prevention or rehabilitation?
How many child prostitutes are too many? Does it matter if they are Colombian, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican or from the United States? Are they victims? Are they victims of their own decisions or decisions of others?
These questions are not intended to be answered. We know the answers. They are more intended to state the obvious. Is a 12-year old in a position to make a decision to sell their body: no. How many child prostitutes are too many: one.
To further clarify the issue following are some facts.
Flagged by INTERPOL, Costa Rica is fast rising as the hemispheric capital of sex tourism.
Rivaling Thailand and The Philippines as the world’s leading sex tourism destination, Costa Rica is also noted to have the largest child prostitution problem in the Americas.
Commercial sexual exploitation of minors in Costa Rica is said to draw as many as 5,000 tourists a year.
There are more than 3,000 children under the age of 18 engaged in the sex industry in Costa Rica.
The majority of prostitutes are involved in prostitution by the age of 12.
Many underage prostitutes were raped in their own homes.
One last question: Can and should we do something about this? Think about it…do something about it…please!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Fejervary is the founder of Salvando Corazones, a non-profit organization set up in 2009 to establish safe houses for child prostitutes. Styles serves on the board of directors.