Promise of Well-Paid Jobs Lures Sex-Trafficking Victims to Dominican Republic

More than 80 South American women who were victims of trafficking have been rescued in the Caribbean country

More than 80 South American women were rescued from sex-trafficking gangs in an operation in the Dominican Republic.
August 08, 2022 | 03:32 PM

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Santo Domingo — With the promise of a well-paid job in the Dominican Republic, young Colombian and Venezuelan women between 18 and 23 years of age were recruited by a transnational network operating in the Caribbean country.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office has rescued more than 80 South American women who were victims of a human trafficking network that sexual exploited its victims and operated in several areas of the country.

Once on Dominican soil, the victims were forced to admit that they owed between $3,000 and $4,000 to the networks that transported them.

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“They forced them to consume controlled substances, subjected them to humiliating and subhuman treatment and did not allow them freedom, which led several of them to escape,” said the Public Prosecutor’s Office in a statement.

The victims’ sexual services cost $100 to $150 for an hour and up to $400 per night, according to the report.

The operation, which the Public Prosecutor’s Office called Cattleya, involved dozens of raids in National District, which contains the capital Santo Domingo, and Bávaro district following a nine-month investigation, and criminal charges will be brought against 10 Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican defendants, with at least 14 people under investigation.

The young women were held in the Hotel Caribe, in the National District, and in the Coco Real Residence, in Bávaro, Punta Cana, in La Altagracia province.

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Law against human trafficking

The Caribbean country’s laws criminalize all forms of human trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking, with penalties of between 15 and 20 years imprisonment and fines.

The US State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report placed the Dominican Republic at Tier 2 in the minimum standards for legal protection against trafficking in persons.

“The government of the Dominican Republic does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons, but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated an overall increase in efforts compared to the previous reporting period, taking into account the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, the Dominican Republic was reclassified to level 2″, the report stated.

According to the report, there was an increase in increased efforts to investigate official complicity in trafficking crimes, the payment of restitution to a trafficking victim, the prohibition of child marriage to reduce the vulnerability of girls to trafficking, and the provision of shelter and migration assistance for vulnerable Venezuelans. However, it notes that the government failed to meet minimum standards in several key areas.

Increased investigations

The report also highlights that there was an increase in investigations against human trafficking to the Dominican Republic.

In 2020, the Dominican Republic’s Attorney General’s Office initiated 63 investigations, 59 for sex trafficking, four for labor trafficking, compared to a total of 26 investigations in 2019.

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While in 2018 there were 11; in 2017 around 17 investigations, and in 2016 there were 25 investigations initiated into human trafficking.

Global human trafficking

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are about 25 million victims, including women, men and children, of trafficking worldwide for sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The ILO report estimates that, in 2016, 3.8 million adults were victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation, and one million children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Ninety-nine percent of the victims were women and girls.

A publication by the French diplomatic office highlights that human trafficking for sexual exploitation generates more than $150 billion annually worldwide and is a global security problem, as it fuels corruption, irregular migration and terrorism.