The U.S. State Department has again issued what it calls its “Trafficking in Persons Report 2014.”
Like reports in previous years, the document will maintain jobs for those associated with the department’s Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and justify spending taxpayers money overseas.
Like previous reports, the document lumps someone in actual slavery with a 17-year-old prostitute who is on the prowl for money. The document also continues to call U.S. and European sex tourists a serious problem even though the Costa Rican government did not prosecute or convict any child sex tourists in 2013. However, two suspicious foreigners were deported for which the U.S. Embassy took credit in the report.
“Child sex tourism is a serious problem, with child sex tourists arriving mostly from the United States and Europe,” says the report without documentation. The State Department also categorizes anyone under 18 as a child, and says “There are no exceptions to this rule: no cultural or socioeconomic rationalizations alter the fact that children who are prostituted are trafficking victims.”
In fact, in Costa Rica, the biggest threat for many children are older relatives. In addition, in Costa Rica there is a much lower age for legal consensual sex.
None of these nuances is outlined in the report. which equates a molested 6 year old with an experienced 17-year-old prostitute or a 40-year-old agricultural worker being smuggled in from Nicaragua.
Perhaps the biggest omission is that the report does not state that adult prostitution is common and not penalized in Costa Rica. To understand trafficking in Costa Rica, one must have the full story. For eight years editors have encouraged without success the U.S. Embassy staffers here to include that in the country narrative.
Those who contributed to the country report on Colombia also did not make this clear. They may have forgotten the escapades of the U.S. Secret Service agents in 2012.
Fighting sex trafficking is big business. Costa Rica assessed an exit tax at airports, and $1 of the tax goes to a fund to fight trafficking, the report notes, adding that the country collected but did not allocate about $1.5 million.
In addition during the course of the year under study, 2013, the government paid approximately $134,000 to one non-governmental organization to provide services to adults and children in prostitution, as the report noted.
There also was a $230,000 effort to construct a shelter for trafficking victims. But, as the report notes, authorities here reported identifying and assisting just 15 trafficking victims in 2013, all of whom were female and four of whom were Costa Rican.
“Eleven were adults and four were children, said the report. “Of the 15, 11 were victims of sex trafficking and four were victims of labor trafficking. Authorities reported assisting 33 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Considering that non-government agencies sends staffers with police as they raid night spots where entrepreneurial women meet men, that number is astonishingly small.
During the raids, volunteers for the private agency conduct interviews with women and basically force them to fill out a questionnaire,
Obviously there is an economic motive to identify many trafficking victims. The State Department says: “An adult’s consent to participate in prostitution is not legally determinative: if one is thereafter held in service through psychological manipulation or physical force, he or she is a trafficking victim.”
Also “When a child (under 18 years of age) is recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, or maintained to perform a commercial sex act, proving force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary for the offense to be characterized as human trafficking.”
The trafficking report covers forced labor, child labor, debt bondage and child soldiers elsewhere in addition to sex trafficking. Under the State Department definition trafficking does not require the movement of a person from one place to another.
The report did mention for the first time that there are transgender Costa Ricans in the commercial sex industry who could be vulnerable to sex trafficking.