U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Panama

Panama (Tier 2)

Panama is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Colombian women and children are trafficked to or through Panama; some become victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation after arriving in Panama voluntarily. Some Panamanian women have been trafficked to Jamaica for sexual exploitation. Rural children in Panama may be trafficked internally to urban areas for labor exploitation.

The Government of Panama does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government intensified its efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers, and stepped up public awareness campaigns and prevention efforts. The government should commit more resources to law-enforcement activities and victim protection, and consider ending its "alternadora" visa program which facilitates the migration to Panama of women in prostitution, some of whom fall victim to traffickers.


The Government of Panama made modest progress in investigating and prosecuting sex trafficking crimes during the reporting period. Panama does not prohibit all forms of trafficking, although its Law 16 criminalizes trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, which prescribes punishments of 3 to 10 years' imprisonment; these punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. In early 2007, the government obtained its first conviction under Law 16, resulting in a five-year sentence for the owner of a nightclub. A second sexual-exploitation prosecution is underway, and the government investigated five other sex trafficking cases in 2006. In addition to assigning three prosecutors in the Attorney General's Office to work on anti-trafficking cases, the government provides anti-trafficking training to all key criminal justice personnel: police and public forces, judges, and prosecutors. The government also works with other governments and Interpol on international trafficking cases and extradited four alleged pedophiles to the United States during the reporting period.


The Panamanian government sustained its efforts to assist trafficking victims during the reporting period. Most services are concentrated in or near Panama City. The government operates one shelter and funds an NGO to provide additional shelter and treatment services to victims. The government also sponsored training and workshops to educate key officials about methods for identifying and assisting trafficking victims. Panamanian authorities encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. Victims' rights are generally respected, and there were no reports of victims being penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Panama provides legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The government made additional progress in prevention activities during the reporting period. CONAPREDES, the anti-trafficking coordinating agency, launched the printing of an anti-trafficking message on lottery tickets nationwide. Together with ILO-IPEC, CONAPREDES also developed anti-trafficking brochures and guides to victim assistance, which were distributed to schools across the country. Other anti-trafficking media campaigns featured posters, radio, and television ads. Trafficking prosecutors also spoke at schools about the dangers of human trafficking.


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