• Debs Nieves

Human Trafficking VS. Prostitution

We often hear and/or read news | social media posts regarding prostitution or soliciting different types of exchanges for money.

While In recent news we hear about girls being abducted, suspected of being forced to prostitute themselves against their will. this is known as one of the many modalities of human trafficking.

Prostitution by definition is free and voluntary; It is part of people's individual freedom to decide to have sex in exchange for money. It does not violate anyone's rights, so no one has the right to ''interfere'' and ''prohibit'' a voluntary and free agreement between two people. generally speaking, there is no specific moral option that justifies the prohibition and outlawing of prostitution, which translates that the possibility of prostitution is a human right. This is why it may be legal in some countries as some governments believe the prostitute has every right to exploit her body however she wants, Now, this being illegal in many other countries, it is categorized as a crime. for example: Under Penal Code 647(b) PC, it is illegal throughout the state of California to engage in or to solicit prostitution. This is defined as offering to pay or accept money or something of value in exchange for a sexual act.


Human trafficking and modern-day slavery are umbrella terms – often used interchangeably – that refers to the exploitation of individuals through threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, and/or deception. 40 million people annually are impacted by one of these types of trafficking globally. It includes the practices of forced labor, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced marriage, sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers, among others. The most common forms of exploitation are forced labor, which, according to the International Labor Organization, impacts 24.9 million people a year – 16 million in private sector exploitation, 4 million in state-sanctioned forced labor, and 4.8 million in sex trafficking – and forced marriage, which enslaves 15.4 million individuals. The ILO estimates that forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits each year. 

The two most commonly known forms of human trafficking are sexual exploitation and forced labor. Any instance in which an individual engages in a commercial sex act (such as prostitution) as the result of force, fraud, or coercion, is considered sex trafficking. Sex trafficking also includes the commercial sexual exploitation of children or minors (commonly abbreviated as CSEC).  Forced labor can occur within any form of labor or services, and it is defined as the subjection of individuals to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. In all instances of forced labor, the individual works against his or her will, for little or no pay, and/or under the threat of some sort of punishment.

Trafficked persons may be forced or coerced to work in a variety of settings, both hidden and in plain sight. Some examples include factories, “sweatshops,” fields, brothels, “massage” parlors, online escort services, on street corners, as child soldiers, or in private homes. The most common industries associated with the trafficking in persons include: agriculture, construction, garment and textile manufacturing, catering and restaurants, domestic work, entertainment, and the sex industry.

While human trafficking spans all demographics, trafficked persons most often come from positions of vulnerability. Those most vulnerable to trafficking include: Prior to their trafficking situation, individuals may:

  • Come from a low socio-economic background

  • Be homeless or have run away from home

  • Be a political, cultural, or ethnic minority

  • Be an immigrant

  • Have a history of sexual abuse, rape, or domestic violence

  • Be in foster care

  • Have been subject to natural disasters, conflict, or political turmoil

These vulnerabilities are the result of policies and practices that marginalize entire groups of people and make them particularly susceptible to exploitation. Traffickers use these vulnerabilities to their advantage and use a number of tactics to establish control over victims. Violence, isolation, threats, deception, manipulation, debt bondage, prospects of an education, and romance are just a few methods used. Traffickers may operate alone with one or many victims or may be a part of an extensive criminal network. Examples of trafficking rings include: gang members, family members, pimps, business owners, or smugglers.


In Puerto Rico more than 47% of the population face human trafficking.

4 out 10 kids between the ages of 5-18 years of age are victims of this crime.

98% of the victims are women and girls.

Affects all demographics.

The Majority of Human Trafficking cases in Puerto Rico are By parents & relatives.

(Recruiters) • Father / Mother need money for drugs. • Foster parents sexually exploit minors as a way to make more money.

• In some cases, abductions by organized crime groups.

6 Main Modalities of Human Trafficking in Puerto Rico 1. Labor exploitation

2. Sexual exploitation - Prostitution (Not voluntary)

- Sex tourism & Commercial sexual exploitation - Child Pornography

- Child Molestation

- Paid arranged marriage 3. Forced Gun violence 4. Forced Drug trafficking 5. Being forced to beg for money

6. Human organ trafficking (1 (888) 373-7888 National Human Trafficking Hotline)

Puerto Rico is one of the main places of origin, transit and destination of trafficking.

• It is a phenomenon that has increased in recent decades. • It is a complex social phenomenon, its scope is wide and its effects are multiple. • It affects human and fundamental rights such as freedom of movement and work, of association, protection of private and family life, health, education, emotional and physical integrity, among others. • Drug use, suicide, participation in drug trafficking, unwanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancies, poverty, deaths, violations of human dignity and other rights and freedoms.

In trafficking, the merchandise is the person. • The crime is against the person.

Legal aspects • Penal Code in Puerto Rico amended in 2012 • Article 159. - Involuntary servitude or slavery. • Penal Code in Puerto Rico amended in 2012. • Article 160. Human trafficking. • Penal Code in Puerto Rico amended in 2012 • Article 300. Crimes against humanity.

• Law No. 225-2014. Law for the safety, welfare and protection of minors. This law was amended to include the definition of Human Trafficking • Law No. 8-2015. Law of assistance to immigrants who are victims of human trafficking. • Law No. 87-2015. Law that declares the month of February as the month of orientation and prevention against human trafficking in Puerto Rico.

In Puerto Rico, human trafficking was incorporated as a matter to be classified in the Penal Code. • The US federal regulations penalize this phenomenon since 2000 with laws against human trafficking that apply to all US states.

The United States Department of Homeland Security (ICE umbrella agency) is the agency that has the authority to work on these issues. • According to this agency, trafficking refers to cases in which minors are involved, especially in the case of Internet pornography and crimes that have to do with the transfer of people by water, air or federal lands. • Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE)


Warning Signs & Symptoms

• Depression & Anxiety • Post-traumatic stress • Physical and emotional damages • Unwanted pregnancies • Self harm | Suicide attempts | Death • Use of illegal and legal substances

• Eating disorders, Appearing malnourished

• Sudden changes in mood & personality

Other Symptoms include

  • Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse

  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement

  • Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction

  • Lacking official identification documents

  • Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions

  • Working excessively long hours

  • Living at place of employment

  • Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as boyfriend or “daddy,” which is often street slang for pimp

  • Poor physical or dental health 

  • Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back

  • Untreated sexually transmitted diseases

  • Small children serving in a family restaurant

  • Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment - barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows

  • Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves

How do we help?

Educational, Emotional, Social & Psychological Workshops for victims.

• Awareness workshops to vulnerable groups.

• Educate the public on how to recognize symptoms & how to report the crimes.

• Educate about local and federal laws.

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