How does one begin to combat the human rights abuse that is trafficking in a country where much of the population views the situation as a fact of life? Members of the Office of Women in Development’s Anti-Trafficking Task Order, working with the Women’s Legal Rights Initiative, faced this question when they went to Guatemala to assist the USAID mission in determining the nature of Guatemala’s trafficking problem, current anti-trafficking activities, and areas for improvement.
Guatemala is not alone in its dilemma. Indeed, many countries across the Latin American and Caribbean region remain unaware that corruption, poverty, and desperation often lead to the exploitation of women, men, and children. But, as USAID has learned, defining the nature of the problem is the first step toward developing innovative approaches to combating this modern day form of slavery.
The assessment team categorized the gaps in anti-trafficking programming in Guatemala by the three Ps — prevention, protection, and prosecution. At the conclusion of the assessment, USAID/Guatemala was better able to identify ways to educate the public on the causes of trafficking, as well as to bring special attention to cross-border trafficking with Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. In the near future, members of the task order will join with USAID’s Women’s Legal Rights Initiative to provide training in the areas of protection and prosecution. Judges and lawyers will be given legal training on how to work with victims of trafficking under Guatemalan law, and social workers and psychologists working with victims of trafficking will learn methods to help these victims come to terms with the trauma they have experienced.
In conjunction with enhanced public awareness campaigns and recently enacted anti-trafficking legislation, there is hope that trafficking will no longer be a fact of life in Guatemala.