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RIGHTS-MEXICO: 16,000 Victims of Child Sexual Exploitation

Emilio Godoy

MEXICO CITY, Aug 13 2007 (IPS) - The child pornography and commercial sexual exploitation industry enjoys total impunity in the Mexican capital, according to a report by the Mexico City Human Rights Commission.

The “special report on commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Federal District” confirms that there are at least 20 spots in Mexico City where these illegal activities flourish, under the protection of corrupt elements in the police force.

Although there are no figures on the extent of the phenomenon in the capital, an estimated 16,000 girls and boys are victims of sexual exploitation in this country of 108 million people.

Emilio Álvarez Icaza, head of the local Human Rights Commission, complained about the lack of strategies to clamp down on the problem.

“The state is largely absent in the question of commercial sexual exploitation of children,” Álvarez Icaza recently told the press. “We have compiled all of the reports that we requested, and in essence what we found is that there are no specific programmes or actions at the local level.”

International organisations fighting child sex tourism say Mexico is one of the leading hotspots of child sexual exploitation, along with Thailand, Cambodia, India, and Brazil.


The global child sex trade, including prostitution, pornography and trafficking for sexual purposes, is a multi-billion dollar business.

According to the Federal Preventive Police, it takes a pedophile an average of 15 days to have sexual relations with a minor after “meeting” the adolescent or child over the Internet.

Another chilling statistic is that 95 percent of Mexico City’s 13,000 street children have already had at least one sexual encounter with an adult.

Many girls and boys are lured to Mexico City from small towns or rural areas by criminal networks, through false promises of domestic work or other jobs.

The number of child porn web sites climbed from 72,000 in January 2004 to an estimated 100,000 in 2006.

The Commission’s report is “a powerful wake-up call to establish local public policies on the matter,” wrote Miguel Ángel Granados, a columnist with the local newspaper Reforma.

“A reading of the passages that describe the main zones in the Federal District (of Mexico City, where child prostitution, pornography, sex tourism and trafficking are found) and their characteristics makes you shudder, especially the accounts of the degradation to which thousands of defenceless people are subjected, because they are children,” he wrote.

In its Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, the international network ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) warns that child sex tourists are increasingly visiting Mexico.

Drawn by web sites, many come from countries like the United States, Germany and the Netherlands.

But the problem is not limited to Mexico City. Commercial child sexual exploitation is also found in tourist resorts like Acapulco on the Pacific and Cancún on the Caribbean, as well as in cities and towns on the borders with the United States and Guatemala.

In the impoverished southern state of Chiapas, children are sold for as little as 100 to 200 dollars, according to human rights groups. That area is considered one of the worst places in the world in terms of child prostitution.

Mexico committed itself to combating the phenomenon when it backed the final declaration of the First World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm in 1996.

In Latin America, only Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile have national action plans to fight commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The Mexico City legislature is preparing to approve reforms to the local penal code in order to crack down on child pornography, sex tourism, labour exploitation and trafficking.

In February, the Senate passed reforms to the law against organised crime and the penal code, in order to make child sexual exploitation, sex tourism and pornography specific crimes.

Mexican society cannot claim to be ignorant of how widespread is the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, and how fast the phenomenon is growing, argued Granados.

Journalist Lydia Cacho exposed a child sex ring in her 2005 book “Demons of Eden”, which contains testimony from minors in Cancún who were sexually abused by adults who also photographed and videotaped them engaging in sexual acts and sold the images over the Internet.

Cacho was arrested and charged with criminal libel. The charges were brought by a textile magnate mentioned by minors and other sources interviewed for Cacho’s book.

UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates that around two million children around the world are sexually exploited through prostitution and pornography, which is the third most lucrative illegal industry in the world after drug trafficking and weapons dealing.

 
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