[ReviewAZON asin=”B00003BE37″ display=”inlinepost”]San Juan, Feb 17 (IANS/EFE) Singer Ricky Martin has presented a study on human trafficking in Puerto Rico in which he said that people were trying to sell minors on the Internet and trade them for cases of beer.
‘It’s a reality that is very difficult for me to accept and which I don’t want to believe, but it is happening,’ the star told guests at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) School of Law.
Cesar Rey, a sociologist who teaches at UPR’s Graduate School for Public Administration, headed the study entitled ‘Trafficking in Persons in Puerto Rico: An Invisible Challenge’.
Financed by the Ricky Martin Foundation, the study was put together over three years by 10 researchers from UPR and the Protection Project at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, which compiled the true cases of survivors of the trade.
In San Juan, the performer asked the public to become ‘warriors of light’ to combat these evils and the cases of children who are denied permission to go to school and are subjected to slavery and others who are sold by their parents and forced into prostitution.
Martin said that different forms of humiliation to which the children are subjected include commercial sexual exploitation, labour exploitation and being purchased to become marriage partners.
Rey, the former secretary of education for Puerto Rico during the 2001-05 administration of Gov Sila Maria Calderon, said that there are no reliable statistics on human trafficking on the Caribbean island because of the bureaucracy.
He emphasised that the investigation could result in proposing of amendments to current law to protect and rehabilitate victims and to prevent others from becoming victims of the trade.
‘We are confident we will achieve awareness in society and strengthen the capacity of government officials and non-government sector organisations to combat a ruthless industry,’ Rey said.
The sociologist reviewed some of the statistics on human trafficking elsewhere in the world and provided several ‘heartbreaking testimonies’ from persons who were forced into prostitution as children.
Among them, he included the case of a 68-year-old homeless man who from the age of eight was sodomised by his own parents and the case of an 11-year-old girl who was forced to have sexual relations with adult men in exchange for food.
The study also reviews the problem of prostitution, which is growing in Puerto Rico due to the activities of the massage parlours in Greater San Juan.
The US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis C. de Baca, thanked Martin for his ‘leadership’ on the issue.
Unicef statistics indicate 1.2 million children are trafficked each year worldwide with an eye towards exploiting them for labour, sex, servitude, pornography and other forms of modern-day slavery.