The ultimate betrayal
Young girls trafficked by close family friendsTuesday, August 03, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
SHE was 12 years old and had known her one-time neighbour-turned-family friend since the age of seven. So when the friend, one day, invited her to spend a weekend at her house so she could “go to some nice places” she had no idea she was walking into a trap.
“We have young girls who have been trafficked by persons who were previously close to their families,” Sharon Millwood-Moore, deputy director of public prosecutions and head of the unit in that office charged with prosecuting human trafficking and sex crimes, said during last Friday's virtual forum staged by the Ministry of National Security in recognition of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Millwood-Moore said the child, whose family was at the time living in deplorable conditions, left, unknown to her mother, to meet with the kind neighbour.
“That might raise other issues, but the fact is she went to somebody she thought she could trust and in about three nights, while she thought she was just going to be going to parties and having fun, she was found in hotels where she was being forced to perform sexual acts with various men — prostituted at that age by someone who was well known to her,” the State prosecutor said.
That 12-year-old is one of the 108 victims, including 65 children, rescued so far by Jamaican police from the hands of traffickers. According to the officials, children “were primarily trafficked for sexual exploitation”.
Millwood-Moore implored Jamaicans to remain vigilant, pointing out that trafficked victims are often “hidden in plain sight”.
“It can happen in many different forms so we have to be on the lookout,” she stated.
She reiterated points raised by others engaged in tackling the scourge that traffickers are often on the prowl for people with unmet needs.
“From a number of the cases we have seen, I can tell you, traffickers are out there looking for persons with needs, and in a deceptive way they present themselves as people who can fill those needs. You have people who will actively recruit through newspaper advertisements or other means indicating that they have jobs, whether locally or overseas; that you can get all sorts of luxurious conditions of life different from what you are accustomed to,” Millwood-Moore explained.
She said while it is common that victims are taken from Jamaica to elsewhere, foreign victims are often lured here as well.
“You have ladies who might be lured to be working in a massage parlour and end up becoming prostitutes — that is one of the most common ones. You have men who have left other countries to come to Jamaica on the premise of work which is superior to what would have been available to them in their country, and having come to Jamaica they realise they are locked in a situation of imprisonment, their passport is taken, there might be a language barrier,” Millwood-Moore told the forum.
“I have actually seen a situation, for example, where you have warnings being given about how evil the locals are and crime is so bad that you will be killed, so don't speak to anybody. Many things are done to control their movement, their ability even to make friends,” she said.
The Jamaican Government has criminalised sex trafficking and labour trafficking through its Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression, and Punishment) Act, which prescribes penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment, a fine, or both for offences involving an adult victim, and up to 30 years' imprisonment, a fine, or both for those involving child victims. Indications are that the legislation will be further amended to include harsher penalties, also making time behind bars mandatory for convicted individuals.
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