The United Nations has called on Paraguay to take action on child prostitution and "high levels of corruption," two related plagues in this Southern Cone nation.
In a report (pdf) released October 9, the UN's Committee for the Rights of the Child said it was concerned about the "sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution," which persisted in the country. Corruption within the state, particularly within law enforcement, meant such crimes were going unpunished, it warned.
Paraguay has failed to take steps to prevent child sex tourism or even make it an explicit criminal offense, the report added, issues that must be addressed soon in light of the upcoming World Cup in neighboring Brazil in 2014.
The issue of labor exploitation was also highlighted -- an entrenched practice in Paraguay known as "criadazgo" -- which should be criminalized as a case of the sale of children, the UN said.
The underlying root causes of both child sexual and labor exploitation, such as poverty and cultural stereotypes, were not being sufficiently addressed, the report stated, pointing to the participation of girls in beauty contests, and the sale of erotic photographs and videos featuring minors.
InSight Crime Analysis
As many as two million children are estimated to be sexually exploited in Latin America, where severe poverty juxtaposed with a wealthy upper class and a steady stream of tourists create the perfect conditions for it to flourish. In Paraguay, labor exploitation has also become a major issue -- 450,000 children work, according to government figures released earlier this year.
Many of these children operate in dangerous or exploitative conditions, and 1.2 million are exposed to abuse, the government said. A national census carried out in 2004 found Paraguay had more than 60,000 "indentured servants" between the ages of 5 and 17.
Corruption has long been a serious problem in Paraguay, which may become accentuated after the election of President Horacio Cartes, a business magnate with a string of drug trafficking and money laundering allegations to his name.
The president has, however, pledged to fight crime and corruption since taking office, and there have been some promising signs.