Local artists come together to fight human trafficking in Peru

More than 200 persons, amongst them several ministers, journalists and local celebrities recently gathered in Lima to attend the IOM-sponsored performance "The Prison of Angels: Trafficking in Persons in Peru, A Reality".

The audience was kept at the edge of their seats as an actress playing a victim of trafficking recounted her story to a journalist. Painful memories flowed as the victim explained how she managed to run away from her captors who were exploiting her as a domestic servant. Her testimony also brought to light the story of two other victims of trafficking she met at a center that provides assistance for victims. The three had been sold and exploited for years.

The performance left a deep and disturbing impression on everyone in the audience.

One of the spectators told IOM staff: "It is one of the most touching plays I have ever seen."

The play's writer and director, a young Peruvian artist, confessed he did not know the prevalence of human trafficking in his country before IOM contacted him to take on the project. "I am a bit ashamed that young artists, like me, are not more aware of this problem, which I believe is our responsibility and civic duty to combat as artists in the public eye."

The performance placed human trafficking at the top of the public agenda for days. Many journalists contacted IOM to get exclusive rights to the performance, in order to bring it to a wider audience.

The interest of the media was also sparked by the fact that a made-for-television documentary portraying real cases of human trafficking was previewed at the same event.

To produce the documentary, a team of journalists traveled to different parts of the country to capture original and moving images of trafficking situations, as well as testimonies from victims. "The production of this documentary has opened my eyes to a painful reality that I never imagined existed in my country," explained the producer, a well-known journalist. "The issue of human trafficking has touched me deeply. I am a father and I do not want this to happen to my daughter," he added.

Awakening to the reality of trafficking

Slowly, and prodded by these types of initiatives, Peruvians are waking up to a reality they have lived with for years but had not really seen. In 2004 the Peruvian Government established the Multisectorial Working Group Against Trafficking which is currently integrated by 11 ministries, and NGOs and international organizations. IOM is an active member of the group and one of the oldest.

Ana María Cubas of Peru’s Public Ministry has taken on human trafficking as a personal fight. "The times when none of us knew what the word 'trafficking' meant are well behind us," she said.

This year IOM has coordinated more than 50 capacity building events in 12 regions of Peru (Lima, Iquitos, Piura, Cusco, Pucallpa, Ica, Ancash, Cerro de Pasco, Huamanga, Tacna, Puerto Maldonado, Juliaca, Chiclayo) providing training to some 3,000 persons active in the fight against human trafficking.

To carry out its project "International Trafficking of Women for the Sex Industry in Peru", funded by the US State Department, IOM works with many partners; including ministries, international organizations and local NGOs.

0800-2-3232 – The Counter Trafficking Hotline

All efforts underway to fight human trafficking are important, but one is of special significance: the counter trafficking assistance and reporting hotline.

Since the hotline became operational in March 2006, it has received an average of 1,000 calls per month. The hotline is free of charge and is staffed 24/7 by operators trained to provide up-to-date, unbiased information and to contact law enforcement authorities if a caller wants to file a police report.

Some of the calls received by the hotline are testament to its success.

A 16-year-old girl was trafficked from the city of Iquitos to Lima. She had been promised a job in a restaurant but instead was taken to a suburb of Lima where she was locked up and forced to provide sexual services to customers. The girl managed to send a letter to her mother who called the local radio station La Voz de la Selva, after the police refused to take her report. The radio host called the hotline while on the air and the girl was set free and returned home. "We are so pleased to have this counter-trafficking hotline, because many people come to us looking for help in similar situations," explained the journalist.

A young man was able to leave the house where he was being forced to work as a domestic servant without payment after hearing the radio spot advertising the hotline. He immediately understood that he was a victim of trafficking and threatened his employer with a call to the police. Scared, the woman let him go and paid him for the time he had worked. "I am calling to thank you, because of you I am free," the man exclaimed to the hotline operator that had helped him.

The IOM counter trafficking hotline owes much of its success to the Llama y Vive information campaign, a joint effort by IOM, the Inter American Development Bank (IADB) and the Ricky Martin Foundation. The campaign designed and implemented a media strategy to inform the population of the new hotline.

National Plan of Action

"The more initiatives we have in place, the more important it becomes to establish a public policy," stated Pilar Mazzetti, Peru’s Interior Minister.

IOM was asked to draft a technical document in preparation for the National Plan of Action Against Human Trafficking in Peru 2007-2010.

The National Plan, currently under review, is a top priority for the new Government that took over last August. The new Government is also keen to obtain final approval for draft legislation for a new counter trafficking law.

Estela Roeder, Director of the Multisectoral Working Group Against Human Trafficking said, "Once the law is in effect, our next immediate goal is for the National Plan to become operational."

For more information contact:

Dolores Cortés
IOM Regional Office Lima, Peru
Tel: +51.1.2217209
E-mail: dcortes@iom.int

View videos of the counter-trafficking campaign: