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Women and girls under the law of supply and demand
Hernán Scandizzo
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Sexual exploitation rampant in oil and soy production areas.

Women and girls are increasingly under threat of sexual exploitation in Argentina´s soy and oil production zones.

According to Mercedes Assorati, coordinator of the Zero Slavery Program at the citizens´ action group Fundación El Otro, the gas-rich areas of southern Argentina are “an enormous brothel.”

“The roots are historical: during the development of the oil industry, men were alone for long periods of time in places where there were no women,” she said. “It´s changed a little bit, but it´s still like a cultural stamp.”

Fabiana Tuñez, coordinator of the civil society group Casa del Encuentro, that studies the issue, estimates that 600 women and girls disappeared since the end of 2008, likely by organized trafficking rings.

People “trafficking has always existed in Argentina,” said Tuñez, adding that it was once run in local networks but is now a nationwide and international activity. But it used to be tied to local networks.”

Several studies have shown that recruitment, by tricking women into leaving their location and going along with their captors, generally for a job offer, is the most common method of getting women and girls into these trafficking rings, but kidnapping is also common.

The soy route
Tuñez says that the booming soy industry has led to a boom in sexual exploitation and the trafficking of women and girls, but that tourism and sporting events have also increased demand for prostitutes.

“The number of girls, increasingly younger, whom they bring for these businesses is going up,” she said.

The women´s group Sin Cautivas in a newsletter in March, marking five years since the disappearance of the young student Florencia Pennacchi, who was likely captured by traffickers, said officials don´t even know the number of brothels in Rincón de los Sauces, an oil-producing city in Neuquen, let alone the number of prostitutes. However, “every resident there could show you the exact way to each of the [brothels],” she said.

Hugo Wernli, mayor of Rincón de los Sauces, notoriously told daily Río Negro that prostitution “does not escape the realities in every oil and mining community in the country and the world. That is the reality and it even creates our identity.”

A 2007 report by the Fundación El Otro said traffickers often rent the women to the brothels for short periods of time and trade them off to other brothels.

“When there is greater movement of money [in one region] they move the women around, to take full advantage of their labors,” said Tuñez.

Weak laws
Sexual exploitation for the benefit of third parties has been illegal since 1913, and brothels since 1937, but prostitution continues, under the guise of massage parlors, bars and nightclubs, which are advertised in mainstream media.

Over the past few years, municipalities in La Pampa, Río Negro and Neuquén provinces have banned these establishments.

In 2002, Argentina ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Supressand Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and passed a law that aims to prevent the crime and aid victims.

But rights and citizens groups say that the laws have been weakened by corruption that involves high-ranking police, the judiciary and public authorities.
—Latinamerica Press.


Women and girls are often duped into sexual exploitation, lured by job offers. (Photo: Comisión No a la Trata Alto Valle)
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Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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