As an anti-human trafficking bill makes its way through Mexico's legislature, a congresswoman has claimed that more than 800,000 people a year are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

In an effort to draw attention to the crime of human trafficking in Mexico, congresswoman Rosi Orozco (pictured) recently cited figures showing that some 800,000 adults and 20,000 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation each year in Mexico, reports EFE.

Orozco said the figure came from the National Refuge Network (RNR), an NGO that provides shelter to abused women. According to the RNR, at least 47 criminal networks control these trafficking routes that predominantly run through the Mexican states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero and·Quintana Roo.

Mexico's lower house·voted unanimously·on Thursday for a new anti-human trafficking law that would mandate sentences of between 15 and 30 years for the crimes of slavery, child pornography and the sexual exploitation of women and children. If passed into law, a maximum sentence of 40 years would also be imposed for parents who allow their children to be sexually exploited.

The bill follows two constitutional amendments made last year by President Felipe Calderon, one that requires those accused of human trafficking to be imprisoned during trials, and one that ensures the anonymity of victims.

InSight Crime Analysis

Estimates over the income generated from the global human trafficking industry vary widely with some putting the figure at close to $10 billion annually, and others over $30 billion. What is beyond doubt is that it is one of the most profitable forms of crime in the world.

Attracted by the potential profits, Mexican cartels have become increasingly involved in the trade, according to a 2011 Washington Post investigation. Because crimes related to human trafficking are rarely prosecuted, this has given criminal groups another incentive to deepen their involvement. As Orzoco told the Post, “If narcotics traffickers are caught they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity.”

The new law will seek to address this discrepancy in Mexico's judicial system, a problem that was recently highlighted with the release of figures by the Attorney General's Office that showed only a fraction of cases were subject to preliminary investigations over the last three years.