Consumers of Human Trafficking?

By now, most of the world knows something about human trafficking. Basically, if you’re not dwelling among consumers, you’re likely at a place of origin or along a transit route. But this story drew my attention  yesterday:

In this impoverished town in central Mexico, a sinister trade has taken root: Entire extended families exploit desperation and lure hundreds of unsuspecting young Mexican women to the United States to force them into prostitution.Those who know the pimps of Tlaxcala state — victims, prosecutors, social workers and researchers — say the men from Tenancingo have honed their methods over at least three generations.

They play on all that is good in their victims — love of family, love of husband, love of children — to force young women into near-bondage in the United States.The town provided the perfect petri dish for forced prostitution. A heavily Indian area, it combines long-standing traditions of forced marriage or “bride kidnapping,” with machismo, grinding poverty and an early wave of industrialization in the 1890s that later went bust, leaving a displaced population that would roam, looking for elusive work.

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Added to that, says anthropologist Oscar Montiel — who has interviewed the pimps about their work — is a tradition of informal, sworn-to-silence male groups. He believes that, in the town of just over 10,000, there may be as many as 3,000 people directly involved the trade. Prosecutors say the network includes female relatives of the pimps, who often serve as go-betweens or supervisors, or who care for the children of women working as prostitutes….The pimps use a combination of threats, mistreatment, unkept promises of marriage and jobs, that send their victims on a slippery slope that usually ends in the filthy alleys near Mexico City’s La Merced marketplace or at a cheap apartment in metro Atlanta. There, the women are isolated and sometimes forced to service dozens of male clients a day.

It’s a sad story, and not a new one. It’s repeated in towns and villages across the globe. Just outside of Rome for instance, Nigerian girls, ranging from 16 to 28 or so are pimped out along the beautiful, tree-lined roads in the foothills just outside the city. These girls come from absolute grinding poverty. They arrive in Rome via a network that begins with “trusted” family or friends, after grueling treatment that usually involves being forced to swear oaths, threats of violence to family, and being subjected to humiliating, unwanted sexual encounters. They must pay the madam of the street, the madam of the house, and their traffickers. In addition to this, they send money home, often paying for schooling or medical care for their clans.

They are, in a sense, the sacrificial lambs of their families.

But there are aspects of this story that are never told: the side from the so-called clients — people who don’t deserve to the dignity of being called such. They are more like sexual cannibals, who devour other people as if they are things that exist to satisfy their appetites.  Sadly, these are often otherwise “normal” people — family men, single men, old and young, truck drivers and business men. Why isn’t there more interest in who the consumers are?

Another question: With so many organizations dedicated to eliminating human trafficking, including the U.S. government and State Department, why is the Obama administration lifting funding restrictions that bars U.S. international aid from going to organizations that directly or indirectly support prostitution and sex trafficking?

Does anyone else make the connection between porn, prostitution, and trafficking? Does anyone see the connection between trafficking and drugs and violence?


  • Irene Lagan

    Irene Lagan is the general manager of Guadalupe Radio in Washington, DC. She is a former collaborator for the English language section of Vatican Radio, has written for several publications, and holds a Masters degree in philosophy. She served as managing editor at the National Catholic Bioethics Center while in Boston, and has been published in Ethics & Medics, the National Catholic Register, Zenit, Franciscan Way, the Arlington Catholic Herald, and The Boston Globe. In addition, she has taught university students as an adjunct professor and has consulted in the area of communications and development for non-profit organizations.

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