Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Dominican Republic

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Dominican Republic

Article excerpt

Despite efforts by non-governmental and human rights institutions, sexual exploitation of children remains a serious issue in the Dominican Republic. According to The United Nations Children's Fund, "Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is the use of children for adult sexual satisfaction in exchange for remuneration in money or in kind, paid to the child or to a third party. It is a form of coercion and violence against children, and is considered to be a contemporary version of slavery".

Children are not only being deprived of living normal childhoods and transitioning into a healthy adolescence, they are highly exposed to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and not to mention the wounding memories they will carry for the rest of their lives. Sexual exploitation is carried out in different forms. Tourists are big contributors to this illegal practice, but locals are to blame as well. It is possible for either a single agent or organized networks that provide sexual and commercial services, including child pornograpfiy.

In 2015, the International Justice Mission (IJM) released a study revealing that 1 in 10 victims of sexual exploitation in the Dominican Republic are children. Findings indicate that most of the trafficking occurs on beaches, parks and street corners. As a matter of fact, the study found that 1 in 4 commercial sex workers are under the age of 18. NGOs on the ground have pushed the Dominican Republic government to combat perpetrators and protect children's lives. According to the U.S. Department of State, the country lacks the minimum standards for the eradication of trafficking, however, in recent years it made significant efforts to do so. In 2015 the government commenced investigations of 15 trafficking incidents and prosecuted 49 individuals involved in these illegal activities. In addition, 105 traffickers were identified, but there was no mention of assisting victims of sex trafficking. As of today, the Dominican government has not reported any new investigations, and efforts to end this perilous activity must not be put aside.

Sexual exploitation of children in all forms is an alarming issue that affects the lives of children in the Dominican Republic. Young boys and girls inevitably engage in commercial sexual activities, most often to provide a warm meal and a roof for their poor families. In many cases, parents bring their children into this illegal service in order to make a profit out of it, which sometimes constitutes their only source of income. In 2013, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ranked the Dominican Republic as the country with the third fastest growth rate in the world of human trafficking. UNFPA and the End Child Prostitution in Asian Tour- ism (ECPAT) organization argue that some countries have high levels of tolerance and cultural acceptance towards the commercial sexual exploitation of children, merely because it attracts western tourists that bring money with them. In fact, a study conducted in 2008 in Central America by the UNFPA and ECPAT, which included the Dominican Republic, found alarming statistics: 95 percent of interviewers reported that they were aware of the existence of sexual exploitation of children, and about 28 percent of them said they knew of sites with access to child prostitution. 24 percent of interviewers revealed that they would not report a case due to a lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

The Dominican government has demonstrated willingness to cooperate with NGOs and several other organizations on the grounds of protecting children against sexual exploitation but efforts have not been enough to eradicate this ongoing issue. The 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report mentions that the government has led efforts to decrease demands for child sexual exploitation. As a matter of fact, in October 2013 the Dominican Republic adopted a new program that trains immigration authorities to refuse access to tourists who have been convicted previously of child sex tourism or other sex crimes. …

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