O tráfico de seres humanos é um dos maiores flagelos mundiais. Mesmo em países desenvolvidos. Este artigo da 5280, uma revista de Denver, nos Estados Unidos, conta a história de várias raparigas que caíram nas malhas da prostituição. Um murro no estômago.
In 2012, President Barack Obama said the fight against human trafficking was “one of the great human rights causes of our time”. So why are so many Colorado children still being sexually exploited?
LIPSTICK KISSES STAIN the corners of the mirror. Open tubes of mascara, a rainbow of eye shadows, and a warm curling iron cover the counter of the pink bathroom. T-shirts, skirts, and heels are scattered on the couch and spread along the floor of the basement. Sixteen-year-old Susie discards an entire pile of tops before settling on a cropped T-shirt, jeans, and wedges. Her naturally curly black hair is stick straight, her nails are freshly manicured, and her youthful olive skin needs no makeup. She hums along to some current mid-’90s radio hits—Mariah Carey, Tupac, Biggie—and helps a friend apply yet another layer of eyeliner, while the giggles and chatter of two other girls, ages 15 and 16, fill whatever space is left in the cramped room.
Around 11 p.m., after a final glance in the mirror, the girls are ready for their inspection. The foursome lines up against a kitchen wall upstairs for the nightly ritual. Dante’s six-foot-plus frame looms over them. The man the girls call Daddy gives each of them a deliberate up-and-down appraisal; his dark eyes take in one developing body at a time. Susie’s look pleases him, and she smiles. But her friend with the eyeliner still looks too young. Dante tells her to add false eyelashes.
Susie absently pushes a strand of hair behind her right ear, revealing the corner of a “5” tattoo. As she runs her finger along it, her skin tingles. Dante branded her with it a couple of weeks after she moved in with her new family. Although she’s not yet certain what it means, she’s pretty sure it has connections to his gang. It’s her first tattoo, a symbol of acceptance into this group and her new home.
After the review, Dante will drive Susie and her friends to a hotel suite or an apartment to meet the guests of honor. Some of these men will be barely old enough to drink; others could be the girls’ fathers or uncles. Bottles of alcohol will cover the tables. Ecstasy, fast becoming the drug of choice among partyers, will be passed around. The girls, however, can’t have any of it. Dante wants them to be sober when his clients choose their entertainment for the night. As they make flirty small talk with the girls, the men’s gazes will linger too long over their bodies. One of them will pick Susie, take her into another room, and close the door. She’ll pretend to enjoy herself, to find him interesting, to feel excited by his touch.
By the time she returns to the two-story Colorado Springs home at 6 a.m., school buses will already be starting their routes. That’s when Susie will shed her guise and become who she really is: Aubrey, a lost teenager who would do anything for her pimp. Because he provides for her basic needs—and she owes him.
THE PRACTICE OF SLAVERY in the United States officially ended in 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, almost three years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Over the previous 250 years, traders forcibly shipped more than 12 million Africans to the Americas. But even though the inhumane system has been universally outlawed, social scientists estimate that today, at least 27 million people around the world are still enslaved—more than twice as many as there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.
Although precise numbers are elusive, conservative approximations suggest 600,000 to 800,000 people worldwide are trafficked annually for labor or sex. (The rest of those 27 million are otherwise held against their will.) Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating at least $30 billion every year. The inception of websites such as Craigslist and backpage.com has helped slingshot trafficking to that top spot: Today, about 76 percent of sex trafficking transactions involving underage girls start on the Internet.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, sex trafficking makes up about 79 percent of all trafficking;
abor accounts for most of the rest. Despite the connotation of movement, the phrase “trafficking in persons,” when referring to sex trafficking, is more about forced prostitution than transportation—even though victims and their predators often move between homes or towns to avoid the police. Contrary to the plots of popular movies such as Taken, in which kidnappers snatch girls and ship them off to foreign brothels or elsewhere, victims recovered in the United States are just as likely as not to be American citizens. “These are young people who live in Colorado,” senior assistant attorney general Janet Drake says. “I am not seeing a lot of people, particularly kids, being brought here from other states or from other countries.”
Sex work is considered misdemeanor prostitution; commercial sex becomes a trafficking felony when someone (usually a pimp) profits off the transaction and a level of violence—or even the threat of it—is present. The federal Victims of Trafficking Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as when “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.” In 2012 alone, U.S. law enforcement officials recovered about 40,000 such victims.
By law, minors do not have the legal capacity to agree to any commercial sex act, which is why the term “child prostitute” is a misnomer. “If there’s a way to manipulate someone, then someone out there will do it,” says Emily Lafferrandre, director of education and development for Prax(us), a Colorado nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic human trafficking. “If we can take off those blinders from who can experience it, we’ll start identifying people.”
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