HomeNewsAnalysisMissing Girl's Case Highlights Sex Trafficking in Argentina
ANALYSIS

Missing Girl's Case Highlights Sex Trafficking in Argentina

ARGENTINA / 17 FEB 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

A case involving a woman's search for her daughter, believed to have been kidnapped by a human trafficking ring 10 years ago, has gripped Argentina, shedding light on how the sex trade operates inside the country.

Twenty-three-year-old "Marita" Veron was kidnapped in Argentina's northern Tucuman province in 2002. Since then, her mother, Susana Trimarco, has become one of Argentina's most visible lobbyists against commercial sexual exploitation. In recognition of her activism, the US State Department granted her the International Women of Courage Award in 2007.

Thirteen people are currently on trial in connection with Veron's disappearance. Her mother testified in court on February 15, describing her search for her daughter over the years. While attempting to trace Marita's whereabouts, Trimarco visited brothels across the northwest, pretending to be a former prostitute looking to recruit other sex workers. She said she spoke with women who'd met Marita, who had been beaten, drugged and abused. She testified that her daughter apparently had a child with one of her kidnappers, and was "given cocaine so that she could work more," according to El Nuevo Herald.

As the trial wrapped up on February 16, Veron's lawyer said in his closing statement that there was evidence that Marita was dead. Some of the 129 women whom Trimarco rescued from the sex trade have reportedly said that Marita may be in Spain, according to an IPS report.

The exchange of sex for money is legal in Argentina, but organized prostitution, including brothels, is not. And while Argentina has effectively outlawed all forms of human trafficking, under current legislation many cases end up being dismissed if the victims initially gave their consent.

The Veron case calls attention to one form of human trafficking inside Argentina: the abduction of women to work in the sex trade. In such cases, as detailed by an Infosur report, potential victims are typically picked out by neighbors, street vendors, or cab drivers who work as "look-outs" for sex trafficking rings. The victims are then assaulted in the street, forced into a car, and taken to a hide-out, as reportedly happened to Veron when she disappeared in 2002. Afterwards, the women are sold to brothels, or are forced to work rotating shifts at multiple sex dens.

This type of sexual exploitation is most common in northwestern provinces like La Rioja (where Veron reportedly ended up) and Tucuman, as well as north-central regions like Mendoza and Cordoba. The phenomenon has also been reported in southern Argentina, where many areas have a low population of women.

But asides from kidnapping, many women are tricked into working in Argentina's sex trade. Women may be promised work in legitimate trades, and, if they live overseas, recruiters to make the travel arrangements. The women then arrive and are forced to work in the sex trade in order to pay off the travel debt they have supposedly incurred. Women and girls from Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Bolivia have been "imported" into Argentina's sex trade in this manner.

If Veron's trial ends with a conviction, it will be an unusual outcome for a sex trafficking case. According to the US State Department, in 2010 Argentina obtained just 15 convictions on sex trafficking offenders, up from three in 2009. For many in Argentina, Veron and Trimarco have already become the public faces of forced prostitution. A victory for them, while highly symbolic, should not obscure the fact that Argentina has a long way to go in fighting sexual exploitation.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 10 AUG 2022

Uruguay has made Latin America's largest ever seizure of European methamphetamine, marking a new phase in drug trafficking dynamics.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING / 9 FEB 2021

A new report on human trafficking in Venezuela's Bolívar state shows that forced labor camps and sex trafficking rings are…

ARGENTINA / 28 APR 2021

Despite numerous investigations against him, an Argentine aviation tycoon was able to exploit aircraft registration loopholes in the United States…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…