PARAGUAY: Tier 2
Paraguay is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Paraguayan women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and transgender Paraguayans are vulnerable to sex trafficking. An estimated 47,000 Paraguayan children work as domestic servants in exchange for food, board, and occasionally education or a small stipend in a system called criadazgo; many of these children are trafficking victims. NGOs report child domestic workers are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Indigenous persons are particularly at risk for forced labor and sex trafficking, and in the Chaco region some indigenous Paraguayans are reportedly subject to forced labor and exploitation on cattle ranches and in agriculture. Children engaged in street vending and begging and working in agriculture, mining, brick making, and ranching are vulnerable to human trafficking. An armed group recruits adolescent Paraguayans, two of whom died in combat with Paraguayan forces in 2014. Paraguayan victims of sex trafficking and forced labor are found in Argentina, Spain, Brazil, and other countries. Foreign victims of sex and labor trafficking in Paraguay are mostly from other South American countries. In January 2015, Paraguayan authorities identified approximately 80 Taiwanese citizens who were allegedly forced to work for online gambling sites catering to clients in China. Lawyers for the potential victims reported police officers had robbed the victims during a raid. Prosecutors report Paraguayan women are recruited as couriers of illicit narcotics to Europe and Africa, where they are subsequently coerced into forced prostitution. Paraguayan children, as well as men and boys from Brazil, are reportedly subjected to forced labor in the cultivation and sale of illicit drugs. Bolivian labor trafficking victims transit Paraguay en route to Brazil, and press reports indicate Chinese labor trafficking victims transit Paraguay en route to Argentina. NGOs and authorities reported government officials—including police, border guards, judges, and public registry employees—facilitated human trafficking, including by taking bribes from brothel owners in exchange for protection, extorting suspected traffickers to prevent arrest, and producing fraudulent identity documents.
The Government of Paraguay does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities convicted an increased number of traffickers and achieved the country’s first internal labor trafficking convictions for child domestic servitude, though the majority of convicted traffickers received suspended sentences. Authorities continued to provide limited protective services to female trafficking victims, but funding for and provision of specialized victim services was inadequate. Authorities failed to create and fund an anti-trafficking secretariat and victim compensation fund, as required by law. The government detained and deported potential foreign labor trafficking victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARAGUAY:
Increase access to comprehensive services and shelter for victims of sex and labor trafficking through increased funding and enhanced partnerships with NGOs; intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and to convict and punish traffickers with dissuasive prison sentences; mandate specialized law enforcement officers and service providers to screen potential victims engaged in crimes to ensure victims are not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; increase efforts to hold officials complicit in trafficking criminally accountable; increase efforts to investigate forced labor cases and proactively identify labor trafficking victims; increase training for government officials, including law enforcement officials, labor officials, judges, and social workers, and offer guidelines on how to identify and respond to trafficking cases; institute formal referral mechanisms to ensure that all identified victims can access care services; and improve data collection on human trafficking.
The government made progress on prosecution efforts, but sentences were not sufficiently stringent to deter traffickers. Law 4788 of 2012 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to eight years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In contrast to the requirements of international law, Law 4788 establishes the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors only, and conflates facilitating or profiting from the prostitution of others and the illegal extraction of organs with human trafficking. Authorities failed to issue a regulatory framework to implement the law effectively in 2014.
Prosecutors initiated investigations of 80 new trafficking cases in 2014, including 29 for international sex trafficking, six for international labor trafficking, and 23 for internal labor trafficking. Authorities filed charges against 10 defendants in seven cases of human trafficking and prosecuted 19 defendants for sex trafficking crimes in nine cases of pandering or profiting from prostitution. The government convicted 12 traffickers under the trafficking law in 2014, including two for internal labor trafficking involving child domestic servitude, one for international labor trafficking, two for internal sex trafficking, and four for international sex trafficking. Most traffickers received suspended sentences, while two traffickers received sentences of seven years and six months’ and eight years’ imprisonment. Seven traffickers were convicted using other statutes. This was an increase from two sex trafficking and one labor trafficking convictions in 2013. The anti-trafficking police unit was present in five cities but had insufficient resources, including a lack of vehicles and inadequate infrastructure. The dedicated prosecutorial unit also investigated other sexual crimes against children. The law enforcement response in some parts of the country was severely limited or delayed. Authorities provided anti-trafficking training to prosecutors, judges, and prosecutorial staff, often with support from international organizations or foreign donors. Paraguayan officials collaborated with Argentine, Chilean, and Spanish officials on trafficking investigations. Authorities did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking.
The government maintained uneven efforts to protect victims. Most government officials lacked formal procedures for proactively identifying victims among vulnerable populations, such as those in prostitution, domestic workers, or street children. Paraguayan officials experienced continued difficulties in collecting comprehensive and accurate victim data. The government did not report how many total trafficking victims it identified in 2014. A unit in the attorney general’s office provided 69 sex trafficking and 39 labor trafficking victims with emergency legal, psychological, and social services while officials collected testimonies. Fifty-one were exploited within Paraguay and 57 abroad; of these victims, 50 were women, 44 girls, eight men, and six boys. Foreign ministry officials identified 64 Paraguayan victims exploited abroad; most were identified within Latin America, as well as some in Europe. Government officials have arrested and detained some child soldiers in centers for youth offenders, though they did not identify any as potential victims during the year. Labor inspectors did not have the capacity or expertise to screen for potential labor trafficking victims and did not typically refer potential labor trafficking cases to law enforcement for criminal investigation.
No single government agency coordinated victim assistance, and most victims lacked access to comprehensive care. Specialized services, including shelters, remained inadequate, particularly outside the capital. The trafficking law required the government to create a national fund for trafficking victim assistance, but this fund was not operational. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MWA) ran one temporary shelter in Asuncion for female victims of trafficking and domestic violence that provided lodging and counseling to 18 teenage girls and seven adult women in 2014. The secretariat for children provided services to eight children identified in sex trafficking and four in labor trafficking in 2014; it continued to provide support to child trafficking victims identified in previous years. Services for male victims remained virtually non-existent. The government lacked effective programs for trafficking victims to reintegrate into their community. Paraguayan authorities encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, and many victims did so. Some victims avoided the court system due to social stigma, fear of reprisal, and concerns over the lengthy judicial process. Authorities secured restitution for trafficking victims in two cases in 2014. Despite indicators of forced labor, such as passport retention and provision of illegal drugs to enhance productivity, the government failed to identify 80 Taiwanese citizens working for online gambling sites as potential trafficking victims and instead detained and deported them due to alleged visa violations. The government can offer temporary residency status to foreign trafficking victims, but did not report doing so in 2014.
The government maintained prevention efforts. The government-run anti-trafficking roundtable drafted a national action plan that awaited presidential approval as of April 2015. The roundtable’s effectiveness was limited by a lack of funding and limited participation of some government entities. The MWA supported 11 regional and four municipal anti-trafficking roundtables that varied in effectiveness. Authorities conducted a variety of workshops and several trafficking awareness campaigns, including one on child domestic servitude, often with foreign donor funding and civil society partnership. While authorities reported citizens from neighboring countries have paid for sex with prostituted children in the tri-border region, the government did not report any investigations for child sex tourism in Paraguay. Authorities did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel and Paraguayan troops.