Mexico has become one of the most prevalent human and sex trafficking destinations since the practice began in the 1970s. Tenancigo, a municipality in the state of Tlaxcala, is home to some of the most notorious drug-cartels that support the illicit practice.

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission recently uncovered nightclubs promoting 'home delivery' sex services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission believes the establishments present a threat to public health and are used for the sexual exploitation of minors.

Several nightclubs were found to be advertising underaged girls. Human trafficking activity was also observed as recent as this month in Tlaxcala.

The National Citizen's Observatory of Feminicide said the women and girls being advertised for the illicit at-home services were more likely exposed to several forms of violence.

'Holding them hostage'

A sixteen-year old sex worker waiting for a customer
(Photo: Reuters/Andrew Biraj)
A sixteen-year-old sex worker waits for a customer inside her small room

Human traffickers often prey on young and impoverished mothers---sometimes even marrying and having children with them. The children are then held hostage to force women to keep working.

Children often experience physical or verbal abuse when their mothers do not meet their weekly quota, disobey rules, or try to run away. Traffickers often threaten mothers that they'll never see their children again if they do not follow the rules, making it easier for the criminals to force the victims to do what they want.

In 2018, authorities recorded 400 victims of sex trafficking who suffered in those conditions. The female victims were commonly aged 15 to 25 living in the impoverished areas of Mexico. The women were often lured with false offers of work in Mexico and the United States, only to be forced to work in brothels or prostitution on the streets.

Children and babies who were rescued from the trafficking environment lived in overcrowded conditions. Some were found tied up, while babies suffered from red, horrible rashes.

In Tlaxcala, sex trafficking is a family-run business and regarded as a necessary "cultural tradition." Many children grow up aspiring to become pimps.

Sex Trafficking Figures

In 2018, state authorities launched more than 385 trafficking investigations. More than half were opened in just three states, leading many to believe the issue goes vastly underreported. Experts say state prosecutors do not have the capacity or knowledge to investigate cases related to the crimes, raising concerns about the law enforcement's willingness to tackle the issue.

The National Human Rights Commission estimates that there could be over 500,000 young men and women who were forced to work for criminal groups and render sexual services. Academics, however, believe there could be more.

State vs Trafficking

While human trafficking ranks second as one of Mexico's most lucrative markets, the country has assumed the top rank for female sex-trafficking and producing child pornography.

Pedophiles have been drawn to what is dubbed as "Latin American Thailand" in search of a vast array of online markets distributing photos and videos of Mexican children performing lewd acts.

Many states are lacking compliance with the government's plans to combat human trafficking in Mexico. Twelve out of all 21 states have yet to update their legislation with the most recent national law. Government officials also have weak and unreliable data to work with.

Mexico City also passed a bill in 2019 aimed to decriminalize sex work. The bill, however, removed a law that allowed authorities to place a fine on prostitutes and clients should neighbors file a complaint.

El Pozo de Vida, a nonprofit organization in Mexico, is one of the many advocacy groups that provide human and sex trafficking victims with a safe house. The victims are given food, water, shelter, education, and proper counseling.

Local nonprofit organizations have also started combatting the trafficking circles to obliterate the practice. Unfortunately, they do not have enough funding or government support to live up to their goals.