Peru is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Indigenous Peruvians are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Peruvian women and girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are exploited in sex trafficking within the country, often recruited through deceptive employment offers. Women and girls exploited near mining communities are often indebted due to the cost of transportation and unable to leave due to remoteness of camps and complicity of miners in their exploitation. Peruvian police estimated that in La Riconada, a mining community near the Bolivian border, there were more than 4,500 Peruvian and Bolivian girls in sex trafficking. To a lesser extent, Peruvian women and children are exploited in sex trafficking in neighboring countries—including Ecuador and Argentina—and women and girls from neighboring countries, especially Bolivia, are found in sex trafficking in Peru. Child sex tourism is present in areas such as Cuzco, Lima, and the Peruvian Amazon.
Peruvian men, women, and children are exploited in forced labor within the country, principally in informal gold mining and related services, logging, agriculture, brick-making, the informal sector, and domestic service. Peruvians working in artisanal gold mines experience forced labor, including through deceptive recruitment, debt bondage, restricted freedom of movement or inability to leave, withholding of or nonpayment of wages, and threats and use of physical violence. Forced child labor occurs in begging, street vending, and cocaine production and transportation. There are continued reports that the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, recruits children and adults to serve as combatants and in the illicit narcotics trade. Peruvian men, women, and children are found in forced labor in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, and the United States, among other countries. Peru also is a destination for forced labor victims from other countries, including Bolivia. During the year, five Indian citizens were identified in forced labor in
a Peruvian hotel. Haitian migrants transiting through Peru to Brazil were reportedly vulnerable to trafficking.
The Government of Peru 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 established a labor inspection unit to investigate forced and child labor, increased the number of regional-level anti-trafficking working groups, and doubled the Ministry of the Interior’s budget for anti-trafficking prevention activities. In spite of the large number of trafficking victims in Peru, authorities failed to fund specialized services for these victims. Officials often failed to refer identified victims to any care services, and some officials’ lack of understanding of human trafficking resulted in poor treatment of victims and impunity for traffickers. Trafficking-related complicity among officials remained a serious and largely unaddressed problem, as the government reported limited efforts to hold corrupt officials accountable through criminal investigations, prosecutions, or convictions. Efforts to identify and assist forced labor victims—particularly those exploited in informal gold mining—and to prosecute and convict labor traffickers remained inadequate. Government data on victim identification and law enforcement efforts was unreliable, making it difficult to assess these efforts.
Recommendations for Peru:
Fund specialized, comprehensive services for all trafficking victims, including adults, or provide funding to NGOs with capacity to provide such services; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, especially for forced labor; hold corrupt officials who facilitate trafficking accountable through criminal investigations and prosecutions; initiate proactive forced labor investigations through enhanced partnerships between law enforcement officials, labor officials, and civil society organizations; create and implement victim-centered identification and referral mechanisms that focus on avoiding re-victimization and coordinating interagency efforts, including during law enforcement operations; verify through ongoing oversight that police and prosecutors conduct intelligence-based raids and employ effective victim screening and referrals; dedicate funding in ministry budgets to carry out anti-trafficking responsibilities; establish a specialized prosecutorial unit; and improve data collection on law enforcement and victim identification.
The Government of Peru reported upholding final convictions of a significant number of trafficking offenders but made uneven efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and official complicity remained a serious concern. Law 28950 prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, prescribing penalties of eight to 25 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2013, the Peruvian Congress enacted a law allowing a variety of offenders, including traffickers convicted of aggravated trafficking offenses, to request and receive decreased jail time. Some police, prosecutors, and judges classified trafficking cases as other crimes, such as pimping, which carry lower penalties. The Peruvian ombudsman’s office reported that judges often failed to sentence traffickers for aggravated trafficking in cases involving child victims, as required by law. Law enforcement officials continued to conflate prostitution and sex trafficking, making data unreliable.
Data collection continued to be uneven. Police did not use an existing electronic case database to track human trafficking investigations, as required by law, but for the first time, judicial officials reported improved data on the number of final convictions achieved. There was no reliable data on the number of anti-trafficking police investigations that began in 2013. Prosecutors reported over 200 open trafficking investigations in 2013, but did not identify how many of these investigations resulted in prosecutions. In 2013, 41 traffickers received final convictions, including convictions from previous years that were upheld by appeals courts. Under Peruvian law, illegal adoption and organ trafficking can be prosecuted as human trafficking, and some of these convictions may have been for these other crimes. The vast majority of these cases involved child victims, and authorities did not report the range of sentences. A court reversed the January 2013 acquittal of several traffickers in a high-profile sex trafficking case and convicted four traffickers in this case in December 2013, with sentences ranging from a four-year suspended sentence plus a small fine to 15 years’ imprisonment. Two of these traffickers appealed their sentences and the principal trafficker remained at large.
The anti-trafficking police division was based in the capital, with a smaller unit in Iquitos. The division’s effectiveness, particularly outside the capital, was hampered by limited resources and frequent staff turnover. There were no dedicated human trafficking prosecutors and many overburdened local prosecutors were not familiar with the crime. Police and prosecutors continued to suffer from a lack of coordination. Failures to coordinate between law enforcement officials in different parts of the country led to significant delays in efforts to rescue victims and investigate trafficking cases. Most law enforcement operations focused on child sex trafficking, and according to NGOs and government officials’ investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for forced labor remained disproportionately low. In some parts of the country, lack of government presence, lack of services and shelter for victims, and officials’ fear of retaliation from trafficking offenders prevented authorities from investigating reported cases of forced labor or forced prostitution. In partnership with civil society organizations and often with international organization and foreign government funding, the government provided anti-trafficking training to police, prosecutors, and other officials. Peruvian prosecutors coordinated with Ecuadorian authorities on one joint sex trafficking investigation in January 2014. Some police and prosecutors did not understand human trafficking and blamed victims for their exploitation or refused to open criminal investigations, handling the cases as labor irregularities or runaway youth. In the latter case, NGOs and the ombudsman’s office noted that officials effectively shifted the blame from the trafficker to the victims’ family members for negligence or abandonment. Some prosecutors reportedly refused to open investigations, sometimes because they did not believe victim statements in spite of other available evidence. An NGO and the ombudsman’s office reported that members of the specialized anti-trafficking police unit acted inappropriately in a case involving a teenage sex trafficking victim that resulted in trauma for the victim, the escape of her trafficker, and her recorded testimony being leaked to radio and television outlets, exposing the victim’s name.
Official complicity remained a serious challenge. Government officials and civil society organizations reported that police extorted nightclub owners using the threat of sex trafficking charges. Victims reported to NGOs that police falsely charged victims trying to escape bars or brothels with crimes such as theft; forced victims to sign declarations absolving their traffickers; asked for money to do police work, including raids; and suggested that family members rescue victims themselves. Officials and NGOs reported that police officers extorted women in prostitution, threatening to arrest them for sex trafficking; this intimidation served as a disincentive for trafficking victims to report their exploitation. Some officials’ involvement in the mining industry posed a conflict of interest that impeded law enforcement action against sex trafficking and forced labor in mining areas. NGOs and the ombudsman’s office in Madre de Dios reported that prosecutors accepted money from traffickers to send child sex trafficking victims home in exchange for dropping the charges or falsifying victim statements to exonerate traffickers. Criminal charges remained pending against two prosecutors who had been temporarily suspended in 2012 for accepting money to interfere with the prosecution of a trafficker. Authorities arrested a criminal investigative police commander in Lima in February 2014 for allegedly accepting a bribe to ignore human trafficking. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The Peruvian government provided inadequate services to trafficking victims and failed to dedicate funding for specialized care. Authorities did not develop nor employ systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations. Officials had a limited ability to distinguish between women engaged in prostitution and sex trafficking victims and expected adult victims to self-identify in front of other potential victims and traffickers during raids. The government did not maintain reliable victim identification statistics. Police reported identifying 664 trafficking victims in 2013, including 617 adult women, 22 adult men, 19 girls, and six boys. Of the child victims identified in 2013, 15 were identified in labor trafficking and seven in sex trafficking.
The government had no formal process for referring trafficking victims to services, and it was unclear how many total victims received services, including shelter. Several ministries reported having internal victim assistance protocols, though few were implemented in 2013. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP) was responsible for coordinating and providing services to trafficking victims in partnership with regional governments, but the ministry and regional governments did not have funding or capacity to fulfill this mandate. Law enforcement did not always refer victims to MIMP or other service providers, and reported that it was difficult to do so on weekends and evenings when most raids were conducted due to a lack of intake staff working at those times. Police temporarily housed victims after raids; however, some child victims remained at police stations for days when adequate shelter was not available. After gathering testimony, police often sent victims home—usually without adequate investigation into whether the victim’s family was complicit in their exploitation—relying on civil society or traffickers to fund this return, instead of referring them to care services.
Specialized services for trafficking victims were lacking across most of the country. Civil society organizations provided most services to victims without government funding, and specialized psychological, legal, and other services remained unavailable in many regions, particularly for adults. Two government-funded shelters for girl victims of sexual exploitation could shelter child sex trafficking victims, though they were not equipped to provide specialized care for victims of trafficking. Other government-run general shelters for vulnerable children lacked basic infrastructure, including space to house victims. Likewise, government-run emergency centers for women provided no specialized services to trafficking victims and no shelter; these centers reported assisting 28 trafficking victims during the year. Two separate projects to build specialized shelters for child victims in the Madre de Dios region with foreign donor funding and civil society support were stalled due to the regional government’s inability to fulfill project commitments, and a local government in the region refused to let an NGO use an inoperative new government shelter to provide services to trafficking victims. Specialized services for male victims were non-existent. While authorities reported they could pay for the repatriation of Peruvian victims exploited abroad, they did not report how many Peruvian victims were repatriated in 2013, and funding for reintegration and other services was lacking.
Victim participation in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers remained limited. The government was required to provide victims with a public defender during prosecutions of traffickers, but it was unclear how many victims received this assistance in 2013. NGOs and the ombudsman’s office reported that victims received inadequate protection and assistance during trafficking investigations and prosecutions and many victims experienced aggressive questioning without an attorney or family member present. One victim chose to leave witness protection after two years as she was unable to come and go and communicate with her family at will or pursue gainful employment while participating in the program. Some police, prosecutors, and judges did not sufficiently protect the privacy of trafficking victims, which included passing names and case details to the press. There were no reports of the government penalizing victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Foreign victims were eligible for temporary and permanent residency status under Peruvian refugee law, but the government did not report how many victims, if any, received this status in 2013.
The Government of Peru maintained prevention efforts. The government’s interagency committee, which also included civil society actors, met regularly, though NGOs and officials reported that the committee suffered from a lack of commitment on the part of some participating ministries. Most government entities continued to lack adequate funding to implement their responsibilities as outlined in the national anti-trafficking action plan, and the Ministry of Interior was the only ministry with a dedicated anti-trafficking budget. The Ministry of Interior more than doubled its budget for prevention activities from the equivalent of approximately $142,000 in 2013 to the equivalent of approximately $355,400 for 2014. Various ministries conducted awareness-raising efforts, often in partnership with civil society organizations and with foreign donor funding. Nineteen regional governments maintained anti-trafficking working groups, which varied in effectiveness. Authorities approved a second national forced labor plan in 2013, although the lack of dedicated funding made implementation difficult. Authorities assigned 16 labor inspectors to a revitalized unit focused on child and forced labor in 2013, but the unit was not fully operational during the reporting period. The government did not report conducting any inspections for forced child labor in artisanal mining in 2013. Labor inspectors fined two companies for labor trafficking violations, but it was unclear if these cases also resulted in criminal investigations. Authorities reported no prosecutions or convictions of child sex tourists in 2013 and no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government did not report providing Peruvian peacekeepers with specific training on human trafficking prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.