‘Thousands’ of Underage Girls Sex Trafficked to Peru Mining Town

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A newspaper’s undercover investigation reveals the extent of sex trafficking in Peru, visiting a gold mining town where up to 4,000 underage girls are thought to be trapped in commercial sexual exploitation, which often flourishes alongside unregulated sectors like informal mining.

La Rinconada, in Puno region near the Bolivian border, is a town of around 40,000 inhabitants, 90 percent of whom earn their living through informal gold mining. Peruvian newspaper La Republica went undercover to report on the conditions faced by underage girls forced into prostitution after being lured to the town on false pretenses.

According to La Republica, many adolescents come in response to legitimate-looking job advertisements but are then forced to work as prostitutes at the town bars. The girls are paid only a small percentage of beer sales and must have sex with any customer willing to pay, receiving about a quarter of the profits.

Puno police believe that between 1,500 and 4,000 minors are sexually exploited in the town.

National police have estimated that approximately 50 percent of minors brought to La Rinconada as part of the sex trafficking trade are Bolivian, and the rest Peruvian nationals, reported Peru 21.

The government and police have not taken concrete measures to stop the business, according to La Republica, with only a few cases emerging when girls escaped. La Rinconada has a police force of just three men.

Peru’s Attorney General Jose Antonio Pelaez Bardales said that he has arranged for an investigation into the La Rinconada sex trade, reported Los Andes.

Peru’s Public Ministry received around 387 reports of human trafficking in 2012, with the majority in Lima, Cusco and Madre de Dios — a gold mining region close to the Bolivian border, which borders on Puno. The cases included sex trafficking, forced labor, and even organ extraction. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Sex trafficking in La Rinconada is part of a larger regional problem. In September 2011, Bolivian newspaper La Prensa reported that 20 Bolivian women had been rescued from forced prostitution in La Rinconada and surrounding areas after being recruited through false job advertisements in La Paz and El Alto, placed by human trafficking rings.

In October 2011, Peruvian authorities rescued at least 234 women, among them 10 minors, from Madre de Dios, on the border with Brazil and Bolivia. At the time, a Peruvian NGO estimated that as many as 400 adolescents and 1,200 adults were working as prostitutes in the gold mining town, many of them having been trafficked.

Bolivia has experienced growing problems with human trafficking, and in particular sex trafficking, in recent years, with the government reporting in 2011 that cases had increased by 26.4 percent since 2008.

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