Avia Collinder, Sunday Gleaner Writer
A REPORT on human trafficking in Jamaica, commissioned by the National Task Force against Trafficking in Persons within the Ministry of National Security, reveals a connection between sexual exploitation, forced labour and tourism.
Completed late last year, the report: 'Human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour in Jamaica', was prepared by Sybil Ricketts and Dr Leith Dunn of Kingston-based Searchcon Resource Consultants. The study was conducted in Kingston and St Andrew, Negril in Westmoreland and Montego Bay, St James. The findings indicate that the tourist industry, more specifically, the informal sex industry, is a significant contributor to the exploitation of individuals.
The findings showed that several children in the western resort town of Negril were victims of human trafficking, which was directly related to increased advertising for escort services. Eleven victims from the area were singled out in the study.
"Girls as young as 13 are full-fledged prostitutes," the report noted, stating that some of them live on their own, while others are taken to holding areas in the communities and used as dancers in the more popular nightclubs.
The study also showed consistent poor school attendance by minors in Negril. It says "many (young girls) were observed loitering on a daily basis in the town".
A non-random sampling method was used to select persons for interviews, and a snowballing method employed to reach a sample size of 29 victims. Snowballing involves identifying key informants who then referred researchers to other respondents.
Across the island, the report confirms that the victims of trafficking are predominantly female (79.3 per cent) with the modal age group being 18 to 24 years, primarily high school leavers without children or partners. Forty-three per cent of the victims were involved in exotic dancing or commercial sex work.
The report highlighted the case of three female victims from Negril who were trafficked to Manchester at night after being promised work and continued schooling, but instead were sexually exploited.
One male victim was recruited through an agency to work at a bank in Grenada, but instead was held under house arrest with others. In yet another case, a child was pimped and constantly forced into sexual activities by her mother.
The majority reported that they worked as sex workers while being trafficked. Another 12.5 per cent worked in a bar or club as well as performed other duties.
Poverty and unemployment were noted by the report as main risk factors for trafficking.
Driving factors for victims
27.3% - Poverty and unemployment
22.1% - Desire for a better job
20.8% - Inadequate financial support for children
66.7% - Are male
40% - Were club owners or businessmen
50% - of victims had no relationship with recruiter
28.6% - of victims were recruited by a friend
76% - of victims felt deceived by recruiters
Source: Ricketts and Dunn (2007)