"The world's oldest profession" is alive and well in Mexico. Prostitution is legal in Mexico, and not regulated by individual states or the federal government. This has led to widespread prostitution rings that foment the problem of human trafficking. According to the United Nations, Mexico is the biggest exporter of young children to the United States and Canada (Hughes, Sporcic, Mendelsohn & Chirgwin, n.d.). Some of those children are sent up north to be adopted by willing families; but unfortunately the majority of these children end up in vast prostitution rings (Hughes et al., n.d.). The prostitution organizations are international and transnational, making the black market a widespread phenomenon difficult for law enforcement to address in the target countries or in Mexico itself. Therefore, the problem with prostitution in Mexico is two-pronged. There is the problem of internal prostitution, which includes the proliferation of street crime, sex tourism, and drug addiction. And there is also the related problem of transnational human trafficking.
Poverty is one of the root causes for the surge in prostitution throughout Mexico and the lack of coordinated responses. Motivated by money, many families actually sell young girls into prostitution. Many others are seduced into selling their children to what they are told will be adoption agencies; unfortunately, the agencies are really prostitution rings. "Entire extended families exploit desperation and lure hundreds of unsuspecting young Mexican women to the United States to force them into prostitution," (Brumback & Stevenson, 2010). In towns like Tenancingo, prostitution is so widespread, "it's become the only way to make money," ("Trafficked: Sex slaves seduced and sold," 2012).
There are several towns like Tenencingo in Mexico; towns that are impoverished with few opportunities for economic advancement for women. Some women are tricked into prostitution by seemingly wealthy men -- the cadre of gangsters -- who promise a life of luxury in their large homes. When they show up for work, the women are forced into prostitution and often trafficked to Mexico City or even the United States (Brumback & Stevenson, 2010; "Trafficked: Sex slaves seduced and sold," 2012). In Tenancingo alone, a town of only 10,000 people, there are as many as 1000 human traffickers ("Trafficked: Sex slaves seduced and sold," 2012). According to Brumback & Stevenson (2010), " the men from Tenancingo have honed their methods over at least three generations." These methods include secret societies, and those societies often include women in their human resources department.
Women in Mexico are often complicit in the sex trade, by fostering the children born to the prostitutes in bondage; by coaxing young women into the prostitution ring via promises of personal gain; or as human resources managers who mediate problems and ensure obedience (Brumback & Stevenson, 2010). Victims of the scams are usually trusting young women who sincerely believe that they are being offered a better life, or a way to help their family extricate itself from poverty. The consequences for being sold into prostitution are long-range, and include the spreading of sexually transmitted disease, the birth of unwanted children (who can then be sold into prostitution), and the proliferation of traumatic stress disorders.
A survey of prostitute experiences worldwide reveals a heartbreaking pattern of traumatic stress disorder. Responses to the experience of prostitution indicated a "multitraumatic" experience, meaning that rape and violence often coincided with the feelings of shame and denigration (Farley, et al. 2008, p. 33). Of the women surveyed by Farley et al. (2008), "71% were physically assaulted in prostitution; 63% were raped; 89% of these respondents wanted to escape prostitution, but did not have other options for survival," (p. 33).
Moreover, prostitution rings are often linked with other nefarious black market activities. Lawlessness in much of Mexico ensures that law enforcement is nearly absent in towns like Tenencingo. Mexico's policy has been to regulate prostitution but in order to make it safer, but there has been no infrastructure or social institution in charge of its regulation. During the Mexican Revolution, legalized and regulated prostitution was promoted as a panacea for the problems it had been causing until then, such as sexually transmitted disease. As a result, good intentioned policymakers "promoted regulated prostitution as the best way to safeguard the health and moral welfare of all Mexicans," (Bliss, 2002, p. 2). The ideal of a regulated prostitution industry has fallen apart due to the ineptitude and corruption of local law enforcement. Health issues remain a major concern related to prostitution in Mexico. "A large proportion of the minors used in the sex industry, catch sexually transmitted diseases which leave them infertile, others contract AIDS," (Hughes, et al., n.d.). Prostitutes are not treated for their diseases, and often spread their diseases to their clients in Mexico and the United States. Therefore, prostitution in Mexico is a global public health concern. Just as Mexican prostitution is linked to prostitution rings that are transnational, the problems these organizations spread belong to the entire globe.
Prostitution occurs openly in Mexico, although brothels, massage parlors, and sex bars sometimes go in and out of business rapidly due to occasional crackdowns or sudden losses of revenue (Penick, 2009). Oddly, Mexican law is unclear about how or when prostitution may be practiced. "Prostitution is legal in Mexico except in brothels, bars, nightclubs or cabarets, thus forcing it onto the street. Pimping is against the law. (Rene Villegas, "Mexico City prostitutes protest new rules," 1997, cited by Hughes, et al., n.d.). Prostitution dollars are fuelled by local patrons, but a large source of revenue for the prostitution rings is also sex tourism. Sex tourism is common in Mexico, and openly promoted. According to Hughes, et al. (n.d.), "Mexico is one of the favored destinations of pedophile sex tourists from Europe and the United States." In Tijuana, where many Americans can easily come just for the day, there are as many as 15,000 women in street prostitution "with many more working in the city's more than 200 club/brothels," (Brumback & Stevenson, 2010).
Trafficking prostitutes to the United States is a major humanitarian disaster. As Ugarte, Zarate, & Farley (2003) point out, "Mexico is both an origination and destination point for trafficking women and children, as well as being a stopover for transportation of people along several trafficking routes." San Diego is a common destination for prostitutes coming from Mexico. Frequent victims include women who believe they are coming to the United States simply as undocumented migrant workers. Instead of finding themselves on a farm in California, they find themselves in a brothel or in apartments established purposely for the trade. The prostitution "corridor" extends from Mexico all the way to Canada (Ugarte, Zarate & Farley, 2003). The corridor is one filled with violence and brutality, rape and exploitation even before the victim ever sees a john. "In a scenario of brutal exploitation, coyotes transport victims from Mexico to the United States for a reduced fee, sexually assaulting and prostituting the women as payment for passage," (Ugarte, Zarate & Farley, 2003).
Prostitution rings often coincide with other types of migrant labor, making it a difficult problem to address. Illegal migrant labor camps throughout California are, on the surface, just for those seeking temporary low wage work in legitimate industries in the United States. Beneath the surface, many women in the labor camps are forced into prostitution to pay off their trafficking (coyote) fee. Others are forced against their will via the use of brute force. The problem extends beyond street prostitution into commercial sex trade areas like pornography, mail order bride businesses, and related industries (Ugarte, Zarate & Farley, 2003).
What to do about the problem? Because prostitution in Mexico is a multinational issue, responses also cannot be limited only to Mexican domestic policy. Presuming that there are no quick fixes to stemming the trafficking rings, one solution…