Busting Sex Tourists in Dominican Republic

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This Newsweek article tells the detailed account of an undercover sting operation in the Dominican Republic; a former CIA agent and United States diplomat, posed with an undercover team as tourists looking to buy sex with children in the northern beach town of Sosúa. They had the help of Operation Underground Railroad, a U.S.-based organization that rescues children trapped in sex trafficking rings worldwide, and the International Justice Mission. See excerpts here and read the full article in the link below:

[. . .] The sting operation, based on investigative work by U.S. law enforcement officials and Dominican state prosecutors, follows several others, part of a campaign by the two governments to fight child sex tourism on the island.

Worldwide there are nearly two million children in the sex trade, and no country is immune from the scourge of human trafficking in a global industry the International Labor Organization estimates is worth $150 billion a year.

After the sting, the suspects were placed in pre-trial detention for a year awaiting trial, and if convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison for trafficking. Of the 29 victims of sexual exploitation rescued, 14 were aged between 14 and 17, of whom eight remain in a government shelter.

Over the next three months, they will get support from social workers and psychologists provided by the International Justice Mission (IJM), a Washington-based non-governmental global rights organization also involved in the rescue mission.

“If you release victims without giving them proper care and treatment they will often go back to being sexually exploited,” said Pablo Villeda, IJM’s vice-president of operations in Latin America, who works closely with local authorities in sex trafficking cases and in supporting rescued victims.

The rescuers hope that sting operations can deter other sex traffickers and tourists.

“We want to make Americans, Canadians and western European tourists think twice about what they’re doing and put doubt in their minds before they have sex with children,” said Matt, who for security reasons only gave his first name. “The people working on the beach never thought they were doing anything illegal. The traffickers never in their wildest dreams thought they were going to get arrested. We want to break this cycle of impunity,” he said.

Rights groups say stopping the trafficking is not helped by the country’s tolerance of the practice of selling children for sex work.

An IJM investigation covering 412 establishments across 20 towns in the Dominican Republic last year found that one in every 10 women working in the sex trade in bars, nightclubs and brothels was under 18, while one in every four sex workers in outdoor places – streets, beaches and parks – was a teenager, most of them aged between 15 and 17. [. . .]

For full report, see http://www.newsweek.com/busting-sex-tourists-dominican-republic-318735

Photo from related article: http://ldsliving.com/story/78169-rescuing-children-from-sex-slavery-one-mormons-inspired-mission

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