Yesterday we told you about Belize being among several countries which were downgraded to Tier 3 in status for not doing much to combat the global endemic of Trafficking in persons. And in a more in-depth look at the situation, the UN Special report reveals that Belizean women and girls were subjected to sex trafficking by family members, but the government has not arrested family members engaged in this form of trafficking. Child sex tourism, involving primarily U. S. citizens, is an emerging trend, concentrated in areas where tourism is important to the local economy.
Sex trafficking and forced labor of Belizean and foreign women, girls, and LGBT persons, primarily from Central America, occurs in bars, nightclubs, brothels, and domestic service.
Some recommendations made in the report as a country is to proactively implement the anti-trafficking law by vigorously investigating and prosecuting suspected traffickers; publicly acknowledge and condemn instances of official complicity and take steps to hold officials complicit in trafficking accountable.
As it pertains to the law, if convicted, the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act 2013 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of one to eight years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and up to 12 years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of children. But what is the Government doing to combat this major issue? The report states that the government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. It proactively identified 10 new potential trafficking victims among vulnerable groups in 2014, compared with three identified in 2013 and 13 in 2012. Law enforcement and other government officials employed informal mechanisms to guide them in identifying and referring victims; however, the procedures were not well implemented.
Police did not systematically inspect brothels or bars for indications of trafficking during the year, and there were reports that front-line responders carrying out brothel raids generally looked for immigration violations instead of trafficking indicators. Of note, is that government provided $275,000 Belizean dollars ($138,000) for anti-trafficking efforts in 2014, including victim care through placements in safe houses and NGO domestic violence shelters.
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