Some 70,000 people report falling victim to human trafficking every year in Colombia, according to the International Organisation for Migration. But these numbers only paint half the picture as many refuse to report the crimes for fear of shame or retribution.
Despite government efforts to combat human trafficking, Colombia remains a source and destination country for both labour and trafficking. There are an estimated 35,000 children involved in the sex industry, with 2,000 of them in the tourist city of Cartagena, according to UNICEF. Officials in Cartagena, a popular starting point for Caribbean cruises, have struggled to put an end to the sexual exploitation of children as they face a number of powerful networks engaged in underage sex rings.
Traffickers lure children with promises of entertainment, fake jobs or adoption. With little awareness of the dangers, children are easy targets for the traffickers and end up trapped in a world of extortion and intimidation
Fundación Renacer was set up to address the issue of child trafficking and sexual exploitation in Colombia. Established in 1988 with locations in Cartagena and Bogotá, Fundación Renacer has helped thousands of children recover emotionally from the trauma of their experiences, strengthening their self-esteem and managing their reintegration into society.
The organisation’s advocacy work sees it cooperate with the government to set out the appropriate legal norms to ensure that all forms of child trafficking and sexual exploitation are prohibited and punishable by law. It also works with local communities, local and national government as well as the tourism and mining sectors to raise awareness of the issues through training sessions and workshops.
Fundacion Renacer has two centres in Cartagena for children and young people rescued from, or at risk of, sexual exploitation. In 2015, the organisation reached 4,765 people, including 977 children.
Photo: Fabio Cuttica