Argentina's sex slaves

Al Jazeera's correspondent explores the dark underbelly of the nation's sex industry.


    Sandra Anaya says she was threatened
    and beaten


    Argentina is a country of glamour - one that sees itself as a slice of European style in the heart of South America.

    But there is another side people don't talk about - a thriving sex industry based on human trafficking.

    A perverse, violent and widespread network that preys mainly on poor young women and girls - women who have been forced into sexual slavery.

    Young women like Sandra Anaya. She agreed to tell us her story, but only without showing her face.

    "If we didn't work, they threatened to kill us, they had weapons, and when we refused they would burn us with cigarettes and beat us."

    Sandra was 18 when she was drugged while hitchhiking and forced into sexual slavery.


    In Video

    Watch Lucia Newman's full report here

    Her story is not unique.

    "It's a mafia, a mafia that couldn't survive without police and government corruption, and complicity," says Sara Torres, from the Coalition Against Women Trafficking.

    "The clients always want fresh flesh so they are constantly rotating women from province to province. They work in networks that buy and sell girls.

    "Only one pimp has ever been sentenced."

    Death threats

    It is a story Susana Trimarco knows too well.

    Susana Trimarco has been searching for
    her daughter for four years
    She's been trying to find her daughter Marita for the last four years.

    Marita, a young woman with a job, a boyfriend, and a baby girl, was abducted by two men in a car during the day, in front of witnesses, just two streets from her home.

    Susana says she made the mistake of telling the police about one of the witnesses. Then the witness disappeared. The other witness would not talk.

    She says she constantly receives death threats because of her vocal campaign to denounce traffickers.

    'Young and willing'

    Forced drug use is commonplace, but not all those forced into prostitution are kidnapped.

    Many young women are lured with promises of a well-paid job in a place far away from the poverty they grow up in.

    Prostitution and brothels are illegal in Argentina, but they advertise freely in just about every newspaper.

    One advertisement in a popular newspaper says: "Get them young and willing."

    Another reads "fresh flowers, never picked", a euphemism for virgins.
    It is a subject the media and the government rarely touch.

    But it is a phenomenon as real as Susana Trimarco's agonising search for her daughter.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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