Central America and the Caribbean

Countries and territories covered: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatamala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago

1. Status of the legislation on trafficking in persons

Of the 12 countries in the region covered by this report, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua have implemented reforms in their penal codes criminalizing at least trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and forced labour, with no restriction on the age or gender of the victim. The other countries in the region either had no anti-trafficking provisions in place during the reporting period (Barbados, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago) or criminalized only trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation (Honduras and Panama). Costa Rica criminalized only the international trafficking of women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation and the trafficking of minors.

Countries that did not have the legal instruments to prosecute offenders through specific provisions on human trafficking applied other offences to prosecute some forms of trafficking, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, servitude, illegal adoption and corruption of minors. Some countries in the region revised their legal provisions on human trafficking during the reporting period (e.g. Nicaragua in 2008), while others were considering the adoption of new provisions or were reforming existing legal provisions (e.g. Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti and Panama).

2. The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons

Criminal justice statistics for this region are scarce, but the absolute number of investigations and prosecutions generally rose during the period under consideration. This was the case for Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador up to 2007. Out of these investigations, a few dozen prosecutions resulted in convictions. The first convictions for trafficking in persons offences in the region were registered only from 2005 onwards, with the Dominican Republic accounting for the largest number.

3. Trafficking in persons patterns

The limited data collected on the profile of offenders in this region indicates that females play a prominent role. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, female offenders outnumbered males, while female and male offenders were equal in El Salvador.

Data on victims identified by State authorities between 2003 and 2007 clearly indicates a rising trend in trafficking in all countries of the region - this includes El Salvador even though identified victims began decreasing in 2007. Honduras and Panama only reported victims for 2007. During the reporting period, trafficking victims in the region were frequently children, predominantly girls. Adult women were the main victims identified in Guatemala, and they were also a significant group in the Dominican Republic.

An increasing number of boys were detected as victims in Nicaragua over the past two years,and a number of adult male victims were identified in El Salvador and Guatemala, but both boys and men were less frequently reported as victims in other countries of the region. Most of the identified or assisted victims were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, but victims of trafficking for forced labour were also detected in the Dominican Republic, the East Caribbean, Nicaragua and El Salvador. In these cases, forced labour took the form of domestic servitude.