Honduras is principally a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Honduran women and children are often subjected to sex trafficking in urban and tourist centers such as Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and the Bay Islands. Honduran women and children are exploited in sex trafficking in other countries in the region as well, particularly Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the United States. To a lesser extent, women and girls from neighboring countries are exploited in sex trafficking in Honduras. NGOs reported an increase in victims from the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. There continue to be reports of rural families “leasing out” their children, who are then exploited in forced labor, including forced begging and commercial sexual exploitation, in urban areas. NGOs report incidents of forced labor in Honduras in agriculture and domestic service. Honduran men, women, and children are also subjected to forced labor in other countries, particularly in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. During the year, a large number of indigenous Miskito men and boys from Honduras were found on a fishing vessel in Jamaican waters, and 21 of these boys were identified as potential trafficking victims by Jamaican authorities. NGOs continue to report that young males in urban areas were coerced and threatened by gang members to transport drugs or to be hit men. In addition to anecdotal reports of trafficking incidents in the Bay Islands, Honduran authorities have identified child sex tourists in La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, and Siguatepeque.
The Government of Honduras does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, such as some law enforcement efforts against child sex trafficking offenders and, for the first time funding an NGO providing services to trafficking victims, the government did not increase its overall efforts to address human trafficking since the previous reporting period. Therefore, Honduras is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government did not demonstrate progress in investigating or prosecuting forced labor or the forced prostitution of adults. The government continued to rely on civil society organizations to provide the vast majority of shelter and services to victims. Authorities did not report providing services to repatriated children identified as potential victims by a foreign government.
Recommendations for Honduras: Increase efforts to prosecute all forms of trafficking, including forced labor crimes and forced prostitution of adult victims, and increase the number of trafficking offenders convicted and sentenced; ensure that specialized services and shelter are available to all victims of trafficking through dedicated funding, either of government entities or civil society organizations; develop and implement formal procedures for identifying victims among vulnerable populations and referring them to service providers; increase the number of adult victims identified and assisted, including repatriated Honduran victims; increase resources and staff for the dedicated police and prosecutorial units; improve data collection on anti-trafficking efforts; and enhance government planning and coordination mechanisms, in part through funding the interagency commission.
The Government of Honduras maintained limited law enforcement efforts against child sex trafficking offenders, but held no offenders criminally accountable for the forced labor or forced prostitution of adults. The Honduran anti-trafficking law, passed in April 2012, prohibits all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties ranging from 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent punishments and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, this law also conflates crimes that are distinct from human trafficking, such as illegal adoption, with human trafficking. The government maintained a law enforcement unit dedicated to investigating human trafficking and human smuggling crimes based in the capital. The office of the special prosecutor for children handled all trafficking cases in the capital as well as all crimes against children, with only two prosecutors and four research analysts. Under-resourced local prosecutors were responsible for all other cases. NGOs reported that the government did not provide adequate funding or staff for anti-trafficking police or prosecutors and that law enforcement had a limited ability to investigate trafficking cases outside of the capital. NGOs noted that the criminal justice system often re-victimized child victims. Most trafficking offenders were prosecuted under non-trafficking statutes that prescribe lower penalties, such as those prohibiting pimping.
Data collection on trafficking efforts was uneven. Authorities reported opening 47 trafficking investigations in 2012 and prosecuting and convicting three child sex trafficking offenders under statutes prohibiting commercial sexual exploitation of children. The convicted offenders received sentences ranging from six to 19 years’ imprisonment, plus fines. In comparison, authorities reported prosecuting and convicting six child sex trafficking offenders during the previous year. There were no reported convictions involving the forced labor or sex trafficking of adults, and law enforcement efforts focused almost exclusively on child sex trafficking. There were no reports that law enforcement investigated, as human trafficking, cases of children who may have been forced by gangs to engage in illicit activities. Civil society reported that corruption hampered labor inspections, impeding detection of possible forced labor cases. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. NGOs and international organizations continued to deliver most of the anti-trafficking training available to government officials, and some officials lamented the lack of government-sponsored training for government officials on this subject.
The Honduran government provided limited funds to one NGO to provide services to vulnerable children. Overall government efforts to identify, refer, and assist trafficking victims were inadequate and almost entirely dependent on civil society organizations. Honduran authorities continued to lack systematic procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as people in prostitution or working children. During the year, however, immigration officials received a training manual developed by an NGO on victim identification. Authorities reported identifying 26 trafficking victims in 2012 and referring all of these victims to NGOs. The government did not operate dedicated shelters or services for trafficking victims, and most services were provided by NGOs without funding from the government. The government gave the equivalent of approximately $45,000 to one NGO that provides services to vulnerable children and that runs the country’s only specialized shelter for girl victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Although the government could offer child victims limited medical and psychological assistance at three government shelters for at-risk children, officials did not record the number of child trafficking victims who received such services. International organizations reported that these centers did not exist in most of the country, and where they did they were substandard. NGOs have provided services to adult victims of trafficking in Honduras, including repatriated Honduran victims, although government funding of services for adult victims was practically nonexistent. Authorities did not report screening or providing services to the aforementioned Miskito boys repatriated from Jamaica, despite their having been identified as potential victims by Jamaican authorities. The only government-provided shelter accessible to adult male victims was the migrant detention center, which is not appropriate for victims of trafficking.
The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, and some did so during the reporting period. Some trafficking victims, however, declined to cooperate or chose not to report their exploitation, given their distrust of the police and the judicial system and because government protection for victims and witnesses was inadequate. There were no reports of identified victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being subjected to human trafficking. The government could provide foreign victims with a temporary residency status, but reported that no foreign victims applied for this status during the year.
The government maintained limited prevention efforts over the year. The overburdened office of the special prosecutor for children coordinated the interagency commission on child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, which is composed of government agencies, NGOs, and international organizations. Although legally required to do so, the government did not fund the interagency commission. The government continued partnerships with civil society organizations on awareness efforts, the vast majority of which focused on child sex trafficking. The government maintained a national hotline for trafficking victims to obtain information and assistance; the hotline was administered by the anti-trafficking police unit, and NGOs considered it ineffective. The government reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists during the year. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the year.