Promises of a better life and good pay were so tempting that she didn’t see the trap. All her hopes suddenly came crashing down when she found herself in a web of prostitution, alone, in a strange country and completely defenseless. She had fallen into a network of which she had only vague references.
Experts define human trafficking as a crime in which victims are exploited through forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. However, one of the most common forms of human trafficking is sexual exploitation, with countless women forced to prostitute themselves for fear of their lives or that of their family members.
Cuba’s 2015 report on combating human trafficking and related crimes outlines the forms of deception and manipulation used to entrap victims.
“In the process of capturing victims, mainly young people, traffickers from the country of origin but based abroad or foreigners, directly or through their contacts in the country, advertise false offers of well-paid employment, such as manicurist, waitress or dancer, and arrange all migration documents including letters of invitation.
“In order to recover expenses for the victim’s travel, lodging and food, traffickers force them to prostitute themselves by threatening to kill them or their family members in Cuba if they refuse, lock them up and take away all their identity documents. Once the victim’s debt has been repaid traffickers raise fees, causing some victims to continue working as prostitutes or promote trafficking in Cuba from abroad to avoid abuse.
OVER 20 MILLION VICTIMS WORLDWIDE
According to estimates, human trafficking is the third most lucrative crime in the world, after drug and arms trafficking.
During a Security Council debate on trafficking in persons in conflict situations, held in March 2017, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, highlighted that the issue continues to be a problem in the 21st century.
In his opening remarks Guterres noted, “Trafficking networks have gone global. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, victims can be found in 106 countries. The International Labour Organization reports that 21 million people around the world are victims of forced labour and extreme exploitation.”
Human trafficking is both a domestic and international crime which violates an individual’s human rights and integrity, and involves traffickers who frequently use deceit, violence, and coercion to entrap victims, who are then exploited for money. What is more, even if the victim initially agrees, this consent is negated if it is obtained through improper means.
PREVENTION & PROTECTION IN CUBA
According to the country’s 2015 report on combating human trafficking and its related crimes, Cuban law defines trafficking in persons as the promotion, organization or coercion of persons to enter or leave the country for the purpose of prostitution or any other form of sexual trade.
The protection offered by the Cuban state to all citizens as part of their human rights as recognized in the Constitution of the Republic and upheld for almost 60 years of Revolution, means that this crime poses little risk to the population.
None the less Cuba has drawn up a national action plan for preventing and combating human trafficking and protecting victims for the period 2017-2020.
The document notes that “The Cuban government maintains a ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward this crime based on three fundamental pillars: prevention, enforcement, and protection of victims.”
Meanwhile, in line with the government’s policy, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) is working to educate communities on the issue, increase risk awareness among the population and offer individualized assistance to victims.
“We believe that the best way to prevent human trafficking is to empower women,” according to Dr. Isabel Moya Richard, director of the FMC’s Mujer publishing house and the magazine Mujeres.
“People trafficking isn’t a big problem for us. However, this issue is becoming more important as the country begins to open, which is why we must continue talking about it. For every 10 female victims of sexual exploitation worldwide, there are two male which is why we classify human trafficking as a form of gender violence.”
The Cuban state will continue to work hard, together with civil society organizations, to ensure this phenomenon which continually finds new ways to revive the old chains of slavery, does not find space in a society committed to socialism and the full dignity of human beings.
WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime “Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
The Cuban state has signed various legal instruments related to people trafficking including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; Convention on the Rights of the Child; and Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.
Meanwhile, after the triumph of the Revolution programs to protect vulnerable persons - above all women, children and adolescents - were drawn up, with legislation including harsh sentences established for people traffickers and support mechanisms created for victims.