Bigger Risk of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Due to Lockdown in Bolivia
In Bolivia, like in many countries worldwide, a lockdown is in place to combat the further spread of the coronavirus.
The lockdown heavily impacts the situation of children and adolescents at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Munasim Kullakita Foundation (MKF), ICCO’s main partner in the Down to Zero program, had to adapt quickly to the new context.
Commercial sexual exploitation does not stop
Despite the lockdown, commercial sexual exploitation does not stop. In recent weeks, police operations have found several sexual accommodations that continue to operate. Another situation that has been verified is the increase of sexual exploitation online. On various escort pages on Facebook or internet, webcam services or video calls are offered, a fact that is currently being investigated. Taking this situation into account, the MKF continues its work as best as possible in coordination with the police, warning about the operation of these spaces.
The lockdown will lead to an increase in unemployment, leading to greater poverty which will leave more children and adolescents vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation as a way of survival, as families – including migrants from Venezuela – will prioritize economic income. This will also cause children leaving school.
Inside a shelter of MKF where young girls live who are victims or at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, there is anxiety. Girls cannot receive visits from their relatives anymore. Education has stopped and many judicial and reintegration processes have been put to a halt. The girls are worried about their families.
“I am very concerned about my little brothers. My mother always goes out to sell on the street and with that she buys food. Now that she cannot longer go out, I’m afraid they are without food. And if she goes out, I’m afraid she gets sick” says a girl who currently lives in the shelter. Because of this situation, the MKF has started distributing food baskets and hygiene kits to vulnerable families, including migrants.
Another girl in the shelter shakes her head and ads: “Everyone says ‘stay at home’, but that cannot be said to the poorest families because many people survive on what is sold day by day. For example my family is poor, we are with 5 and we only live in one small room which is our kitchen, bedroom and living room all at once. Going to school or going out with my mom to sell felt like an escape, especially when my dad was drunk and when there were fights. Now it must be worse, my little brothers must be watching if my parents fight for money. On TV they tell you to talk, to do activities, to read, to do your favorite hobbies, but for families like ours it doesn’t work like that. This makes me angry”.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, MKF started to work more and more with the private sector linked to tourism, such as hotels and travel agencies. With the decline in tourism, the private sector will be more focused on economic survival and there might be less attention preventing sexual exploitation of children. Therefore MKF will make a joint intervention strategy to be sure the successes which have been booked in this sector can continue.