Trafficking in Persons Report 2013: El Salvador

By Dialogo
September 18, 2013

According to the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report published by the U.S. Department of State, El Salvador is a source, transit, and destination country for women, men, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls, some from rural areas of El Salvador, are exploited in sex trafficking in urban centers and forced to work as “bar girls.” Salvadoran adults and children are subjected to forced begging and forced labor in agriculture and domestic service.

The majority of foreign victims are women and children from neighboring countries—particularly Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras—who migrate to El Salvador seeking employment, but are subsequently forced into prostitution, domestic service, construction, or work in the informal sector. Gangs continued to use children for illicit activities, including drug trafficking, in some cases using force or coercion. Salvadorans have been subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and the United States. Members of organized criminal groups, including transnational criminal organizations, are reportedly involved in some trafficking crimes in El Salvador.

The Government of El Salvador does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, authorities continued to investigate and prosecute sex trafficking cases and to provide services to girls exploited in child sex trafficking. Efforts to identify and investigate forced labor cases, however, remained weak, and victim services for male and adult female victims were inadequate. Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a serious obstacle to anti-trafficking efforts.

Recommendations for El Salvador, include: Ensuring that victims, particularly adults, are provided comprehensive services through increased funding for such services; strengthening efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convicting and sentencing trafficking offenders, especially for forced labor. Additionally, there is a call for holding government officials who are complicit in trafficking offenses criminally accountable through criminal investigations and prosecutions; proactively investigating possible cases of forced labor, including domestic servitude; continuing to increase training on victim identification and assistance for social workers and for immigration, labor, law enforcement, and judicial officials, among others.

The Government of El Salvador continued to increase law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking offenders, but efforts against forced labor were weak and official complicity remained a significant concern during the reporting period.

Article 367B of El Salvador’s penal code prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of four to eight years’ imprisonment. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent, though not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape, which carries a punishment of six to 20 years’ imprisonment. During the year, authorities presented to Congress new antitrafficking legislation that would increase human trafficking penalties to eight to 10 years’ imprisonment.

In 2012, the specialized police unit reported training over 700 police officers on how to detect trafficking cases and assist trafficking victims and authorities trained 420 immigration officials on human trafficking.

The Salvadoran government maintained prevention efforts during the reporting period. The government anti-trafficking council coordinated interagency efforts and launched a national anti-trafficking policy outlining the government’s anti-trafficking strategy. Authorities conducted awareness efforts focused on educating children about human trafficking. The Ministry of Tourism reported conducting awareness seminars on child sex tourism and trafficking for approximately 200 members of the business communities in coastal areas, but authorities did not report investigating or prosecuting any cases of child sex tourism during the year. Salvador officials reported employing radio and television interviews to publicize prison sentences for individuals who paid children for sexual services in order to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.