Things That Matter

She Spent 37 Years As A Sex Slave And Is Now Fighting To Free All People From That Life

This past week was the week that the world brought attention to an issue that affects an estimated 40.3 million people around the globe, human trafficking. For Uruguayan Sandra Ferrini, 58, it was exposing a past that had followed her for most of her entire life. Ferrini was “sold” by her mother as a teenager into the world of street prostitution and after 37 years on the city streets of Chile, Paraguay, Argentina and in Europe, her story is now ready to be told. 

According to a report from the International Labour Organization, there are around 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world, with 1 in 4 victims being children. 

Credit: @imrebeccabender / Twitter

On Tuesday, Uruguay participated in its first anti-human trafficking march, with Ferrini joining countless of others who like her had to endure sex trafficking for years. Campaigners took to the streets of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where in the country of 3.5 million people, the most common form of human trafficking involves women and girls where they are forced into sex work.

For Ferrnini, the march was something that was on her mind all the years she had no voice on the issue and couldn’t speak up about the horrendous conditions she was placed in. She says many people choose to ignore the issue or just not address it all together.

“It’s a march that I thought about when I was held captive,” Ferrini told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Human trafficking happens every day, but people don’t want to see it. We are seen as numbers. We want to be seen as people. We will march as people.”

The details of Ferrnini past experience is just one example of the countless lives that face these situations on a daily basis. She says that she was sexually exploited for 37 years and was even forced to have sex with up to 30 men a day.

“I am a survivor of trafficking. It was my mother who sold me at the beginning,” Ferrini told Subrayado. “I was able to get rid at 45 because I had a traffic accident in which I was paralyzed. They were going to kill me, they threw me in a field, and a person rescued me.”

Human trafficking remains a global issue and the United Nations has set out to bring awareness and combat this growing issue. 

Credit: @peacerec1 / Twitter

Uruguay is one of the biggest epicenters when it comes to human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report, Uruguay was placed in its Tier 2 Watch List, which is the second-lowest ranking. This was done as the country has not meet many of the minimum standards when it comes to efforts in eliminating human trafficking.

“Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labor, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the United Nations on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. “Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades.”

For Uruguay, this is hopefully just the start of acknowledging and bringing to light the global issue of human trafficking. 

Credit: @sabre_comp / Twitter

There has been some progress in recent years when it comes to decreasing the number of sex trafficking victims. In 2017, Uruguay’s National Institute for Women assisted 172 women trafficking victims which was an increase from the previous year at 131, the U.S. State Department said.

There has also been legislative work put in place as last year Uruguay updated its anti-human trafficking law and action plan. The country also just recently created a new national committee to help combat it’s anti-trafficking efforts. 

Ferrini now also heads “Yes to Life, No to Trafficking,” a survivors support group. It’s these types of groups and organizations that play a big role in getting women off the streets and rebuilding their lives and most importantly, rebuilding their broken self-esteem. 

“I naturalized this as a child – for me it was something that I thought I had to live,” Ferrini said. “There’s a lot of work to do in education, training and prevention.”

READ: A City Is On Edge After One Of The World’s Most Wanted Men Escapes From A Prison In Central Uruguay

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

Things That Matter

Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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Women In Mexico Marched For International Women’s Day And Things Got Violent

Things That Matter

Women In Mexico Marched For International Women’s Day And Things Got Violent

March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate women but in Mexico it is a protest against the rampant femicide gripping the country. Women marched against the femicide this year and things turned violent when police clashed with protesters.

March 8 has a different meaning in Mexico.

Women in Mexico took to the streets to protest the rampant femicides that are devastating the country. According to the New York Times, femicides in Mexico have been increasing in recent years. There was a 10 percent increase from 2018 to 2019 with a total of 1,006 incidents of reported femicide.

In 2017, there were seven femicides a day and by 2019 the number had jumped to 10.

“Women are demanding a shift of paradigm and nothing less,” Estefanía Vela, executive director of Intersecta, told the New York Times. “These are not only hashtags. These are students protesting at the universities, and mothers demanding justice for their daughters.”

People on social media are amplifying the cause by sharing what is happening.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it a part of his presidency to downplay the extent of the crisis. At times, AMLO has gone on record dismissing claims of widespread femicide in Mexico.

“I’m going to give you another fact, which doesn’t mean that violence against women doesn’t exist, because I don’t want you all to misinterpret me,” AMLO said during a daily morning presser in May. “Ninety percent of those calls that serve as your base are false, it’s proven.”

Women are not allowing for the narrative of false reports to persist and are standing up to highlight the crisis. People are criticizing AMLO and his administration for seemingly turning a blind eye to the deadly crisis.

This year’s protest had more anger after the death of Ingrid Escamilla.

Escamilla was murdered in February 2020 by her domestic partner. Her body was mutilated by the attacker in a violent way. The press ran the photos of her body on the front page and sparked anger around the world. After being murdered, her body was displayed for the public to see and people are tired of women being treated so poorly.

“He was supposed to represent a change and it turns out that he is not,” Xóchitl Rodríguez, a member of Feminasty, told the New York Times. “The fact that you wake up in the morning and your president cannot reassure you on what specific actions he is taking to deal with the issue, is outrageous.”

READ: Radical Feminists Have Seized Control of a Federal Building in Mexico in Protest of the Government’s Apathy Towards Rampant Femicide

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