A UNICEF report in 2007 said that at least 16,000 children are trafficked for sexual purposes along the border between the United States and Mexico. The organization says there is also a brisk trade in children across the Guatemalan border to the south. The trafficking corridor through Mexico is used to transport children into Canada and the United States to be exploited as prostitutes. However, many of these children are kept in Mexico to satisfy the demand from sex tourists.
Poverty Drives the Child Sex Business
The group ECPAT is based in London and it campaigns to put an end to the sexual exploitation of children. In an undated report on its website, ECPAT says, “…a significant number of Mexican girls and boys are trafficked within Mexico for sexual exploitation, often lured from poor rural districts to urban, border, and tourist areas through false offers of employment. Some estimates suggest that of 150,000 children living on the streets, 50 percent are victims of trafficking for sexual purposes.”
Journalist Exposes Cancun’s Sex Trade
Lydia Cacho is a Mexican journalist who has uncovered sex-rings operating in Cancun. In her 2005 book, The Demons of Eden she wrote about business and political leaders in Cancun being involved in child prostitution and pornography. The book came out of a series of article she had written and that had put her life at risk because she named names.
Among the people she has accused of being involved in the child sex industry are Cancun-based Lebanese hotelier Jean Succar Kuri and Kamel Nacif Borge, one of Mexico’s wealthiest men who made his fortune in textiles.
Her investigative journalism has brought death threats, but also accolades including Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan Award for Women and Children’s Rights and the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Bars and Hotels Provide Tourists with Sex with Minors
The non-governmental organization Global March against Child Labour says that, “The Internet is used by bars and escort agencies in Cancun to promote sexual ‘services’ with minors. In addition, taxi drivers and hotel receptionists play an important role as middlemen between the tourists and commercially sexually exploited girls and boys.”
According to ECPAT, “It is estimated that 25 percent of the child sex tourists in the world are from the United States.” The group also notes that more Americans go to Cancun than any other Mexican destination.
Sex Tourism in Other Mexican Resorts
The International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBRC) describes Mexico as a primary sex tourism destination. It says the “problem is concentrated in the largest tourism hubs of the country such as Tijuana, Cancun and Acapulco (where child prostitution is most prevalent). These cities are home to an overwhelming number of children and adolescents who are confined to work in prostitution and are often exploited by foreign tourists.”
IBRC identifies England, the Netherlands, and Germany, in addition to the United States, as the main source countries for tourists whose aim is to have sex with children.
“Mexican Journalist Risks Life to Expose Child Sex Rings.” R.M. Arrieta, El Tecolote, April 27, 2007.
“UNICEF Calls for Increased Efforts to Prevent Trafficking of Children. UNICEF, June 16, 2007.
“An Overview of the Situation in Various Latin American Countries.” The International Bureau for Children’s Rights.