Last Updated: Monday, 22 December 2014, 13:11 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bolivia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bolivia, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee932b.html [accessed 22 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Bolivia (Tier 2)

Bolivia is principally a source country for men, women, and children who are subjected to conditions of sex trafficking and forced labor within the country or abroad. A large number of Bolivians are found in conditions of forced labor in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Spain, and the United States in sweatshops, factories, and agriculture. A Bolivian consular official noted an increase in exploited Bolivian laborers in Brazil during the year. Within Bolivia, young women and girls from rural areas are subjected to sex trafficking in urban areas. Bolivian women and girls are also subjected to sex trafficking in neighboring countries, including Argentina, Peru, and Chile. Members of indigenous communities are at risk of forced labor within the country, particularly in the Chaco region. A significant number of Bolivian children are subjected to conditions of forced labor in mining, agriculture, and as domestic servants. Reports also indicate some families lease their children for forced labor in mining and agriculture near border areas with Peru. In Chile and Brazil, authorities identified some Bolivian children forced to courier drugs. Despite some officials' assertions otherwise, some NGOs and the human rights ombudsman report that a small number of children serve in the Bolivian armed forces. The country's porous borders facilitate the movement of undocumented migrants, some of whom may be victims of trafficking.

The Government of Bolivia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government maintained law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking crimes involving children and, with support from a foreign government, opened four trafficking investigative units during the reporting period in border areas with identified trafficking problems. Despite these efforts, convictions of trafficking offenders remained disproportionately low compared with high numbers of trafficking victims identified by Bolivian authorities. The government did not show evidence of adequately addressing forced labor, and most victim services were available only to girl sex trafficking victims.

Recommendations for Bolivia: Intensify law enforcement efforts against the forced labor of adults and children and the forced prostitution of adults; increase efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, especially in cases involving forced prostitution of adult women or forced labor; increase efforts to proactively identify victims of forced labor and adult sex trafficking victims; pass the draft comprehensive trafficking law to establish more robust victim protections; enhance victim services across the country, particularly for victims of forced labor, through increased resources designated for victim assistance; increase resources for dedicated anti-trafficking prosecutorial and police units to address the challenges in moving from victim identification to successful prosecution; enhance training opportunities for police officers, judicial officials, and other government officials; develop formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; provide enhanced legal protections to trafficking victims, including legal alternatives to deportation for foreign victims; and increase public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking, particularly among Bolivians seeking work abroad.

Prosecution

The Bolivian government sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year, though it did not demonstrate increased efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders. Bolivia prohibits all forms of human trafficking through Law 3325, a trafficking and smuggling law enacted in 2006, which prescribes penalties of eight to 12 years' imprisonment for both internal and transnational trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed under Bolivian law for other serious crimes, such as rape. A draft trafficking and smuggling law before Bolivia's congress would enhance the government's ability to conduct in-depth trafficking investigations and would improve victims' access to specialized services. The Bolivian National Police reported investigating 219 cases suspected of involving human trafficking in 2010, compared with 288 investigations initiated during the preceding year. Authorities prosecuted 15 suspected trafficking offenders under the anti-trafficking law, as well as prosecuting 16 trafficking offenders under pimping statutes and three offenders under statues prohibiting the sexual exploitation of minors. The government achieved the conviction of seven sex trafficking offenders in 2010 under statutes prohibiting pimping and the sexual exploitation of minors, with sentences ranging from six to 20 years' imprisonment. The government did not achieve any convictions under the trafficking law in 2010. In comparison, in 2009 the government prosecuted 21 suspected trafficking offenders and convicted seven, three of which were given suspended sentences.

The majority of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts continued to focus on the prostitution of children, and there were no reports that charges were filed for forced labor crimes. The government continued to operate four specialized anti-trafficking police units in La Paz, El Alto, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. During the reporting period, authorities inaugurated four additional units along Bolivia's borders with Brazil in Cobija and Puerto Quijarro, with Argentina in Yacuiba, and with Peru in Desaguadero, with the support of a foreign government. Each unit was staffed by four officers, and prosecutors were assigned to these new units to support their investigative work. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors received anti-trafficking training funded by NGOs, international organizations, and a foreign government. Bolivian police continued targeted law enforcement operations against brothels that exploited children. The dedicated anti-trafficking prosecutorial unit in the capital was underfunded and understaffed. Some judges were reportedly reluctant to use the anti-trafficking law. Bolivian officials pursued partnerships with counterparts in the governments of Argentina and Peru to investigate trafficking cases and repatriate victims. Authorities reported no investigation, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for trafficking-related complicity.

Protection

The Bolivian government sustained efforts to protect female trafficking victims over the last year with funding from civil society organizations and foreign governments. Although law enforcement officials identified a significant number of child victims during police operations in brothels, the government lacks effective procedures for identifying trafficking victims among other vulnerable populations, such as child laborers. Authorities ran a closed shelter for underage female sex trafficking victims, as well as other underage female victims of abuse, in La Paz. Similar shelters in Potosi, Cochabamba, and El Alto housed trafficking victims during the reporting period; these shelters also housed juvenile offenders. In addition to investigating and prosecuting cases, the anti-trafficking police unit in Santa Cruz provides victims of trafficking and domestic violence with medical assistance, counseling services, and shelter, and is seen as a successful model of integrated care in the country. NGOs and religious groups provided additional shelter care and reintegration programs to trafficking victims, but do not receive government funding.

Temporary and long-term services for victims remained unavailable in parts of the country. Services for adult female victims and for male victims were minimal, and in one case a male victim of sex trafficking from Argentina was placed in police detention to protect him from his traffickers. Police reported identifying 277 sex trafficking victims during the reporting period; 154 were referred to government-run facilities, and 84 were referred to shelters run by civil society. Authorities reported adopting the IOM care protocol for trafficking victims in 2010 in an effort to standardize the approach of different government entities, but there was no designated funding to implement this protocol. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders, though victims often chose not to cooperate because of their fears of reprisals from traffickers. Furthermore, as courts maintain open records, no mechanisms existed to protect information about trafficking victims, and the legal structure often provided greater safeguards to accused trafficking offenders than to victims. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to deportation to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. While the government provided no specialized training in the identification of trafficking victims, other partners, including NGOs and foreign governments, provided training to police, prosecutors, and the general population.

Prevention

The government sustained its prevention and public awareness efforts, largely in collaboration with international donors. The National Anti-Trafficking Council met four times during the year and was responsible for implementing the 2006-2011 national plan to combat trafficking, though many of the plan's goals remain unmet. In 2010, authorities sponsored the second meeting of the separate National Council to Combat Trafficking in Migrants. Officials from different government agencies and the IOM committed to various anti-trafficking initiatives, including enhanced victim identification efforts along the border with Argentina and enhanced coordination with the Government of Chile regarding Bolivian children exploited in Chile. Bolivian authorities continued to forge partnerships with NGOs, international organizations, and other governments on prevention activities. No efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor were reported during the year. The government provided human rights training for its troops before they deployed on international peacekeeping missions, though this did not involve training specifically on human trafficking.

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