PARAGUAY: Tier 2
Paraguay is a source, destination, and transit 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. Thousands of 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 subjected to domestic servitude and are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Indigenous persons are particularly at risk for forced labor and sex trafficking. Children engaged in street vending and begging and working in agriculture, mining, brick making, and ranching are vulnerable to human trafficking. In 2015, authorities reported at least 24 Paraguayan women were recruited for work in Turkey and later exploited in forced prostitution in brothels throughout Turkey, Spain, and the northern area of Cyprus administered by Turkish Cypriots. The reliance of international trafficking rings on local recruiters remains a problem. Traffickers offer victims their freedom or pardon of debts if they recruit other victims and often rely on social media outlets as recruiting tools. Foreign victims of sex and labor trafficking in Paraguay are mostly from other South American countries. Paraguayan victims of sex trafficking and forced labor are found in Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, China, Colombia, and other countries. Paraguayan women are recruited as couriers of illicit narcotics to Europe and Africa, where they are subjected to 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 within Brazil. Two Paraguayan women were arrested in China as “drug mules” in 2012 and 2013, and were sentenced to death. Following their identification by the Government of Paraguay as trafficking victims, the Chinese government commuted the two victims’ sentences to life in prison in 2015. 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 in order to prevent arrest, and producing fraudulent identity documents. Reports indicated isolated instances of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) and the Armed Peasant Association (ACA) forcibly recruiting children and adolescents from San Pedro, Concepcion, and Amambay to participate in military operations and serve in logistical and communication support roles. There were also reports of isolated instances in which female child soldiers entered into informal marriages with other older EPP and ACA members.
The Government of Paraguay does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued anti-trafficking law enforcement and training efforts and cooperated with foreign governments in several operations during the reporting period. However, efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers under the 2012 anti-trafficking act or combat labor trafficking were inadequate to address the problem. The government continued to provide limited protective services to female and child trafficking victims. However, the government did not create and fund an anti-trafficking secretariat or victim compensation fund, as required by law, and the draft national action plan remained awaiting approval for the second consecutive year.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARAGUAY:
Fully implement the 2012 trafficking law and develop implementing regulations to most effectively do so; develop formal procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims; 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 proactively investigate forced labor cases and 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 maintained modest prosecution efforts. The Comprehensive Anti-Trafficking 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. However, law 4788/12 is inconsistent with international law in that it establishes the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime, and conflates facilitating or profiting from the prostitution of others and the illegal extraction of organs with human trafficking. In 2015, authorities failed to issue implementing regulations for law 4788/12 to ensure consistent enforcement of the law among all government agencies. Moreover, the implementing regulations are required to establish a national anti-trafficking secretariat and victim compensation fund. Prior to the enactment of law 4788/12, international trafficking was specifically outlawed under law 3440/08, but domestic trafficking cases were typically prosecuted using other statutes such as pandering and profiting from prostitution. Law 3440/08, which expands the list of predicate offenses in trafficking crimes, including pandering, is still used occasionally in international trafficking cases.
In 2015, prosecutors with the Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU) reported 68 new investigations under the 2012 anti-trafficking act, compared with 80 in the previous reporting period, including 17 for labor trafficking, 40 for sex trafficking, and 11 for which the type of trafficking was unknown. ATU prosecutors also reported investigations, including 22 for pimping, 16 related to profiting from prostitution, and five related to other offenses; it is unclear how many of these cases involved trafficking. Authorities initiated prosecutions against 59 defendants (17 defendants for human trafficking and 42 defendants for sex pandering, profiting from prostitution, and other charges) and convicted 35 defendants under both laws 3440 and 4788 for pimping and prostitution charges, compared with 29 defendants prosecuted (10 defendants for human trafficking and 19 defendants for sex pandering or profiting from prostitution) and 19 convictions (12 under the trafficking law and seven under other statutes) in the previous reporting period. The government made inadequate efforts to investigate and prosecute labor trafficking crimes. Nine cases received sentences in 2015, some following previous years’ convictions, while sentencing remained pending for some convictions reached in 2015. In one case, an Argentinian trafficker was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexual and labor exploitation within Paraguay and ordered to pay 25,000,000 guaranies ($5,000) in reparations to the victim. One Colombian citizen received a suspended sentence for labor trafficking of Colombian citizens in Paraguay. In cooperation with Argentine and Spanish anti-trafficking units, Paraguayan officials conducted 28 raids of illegal and legal brothels within Paraguay and abroad and rescued 86 trafficking victims, 66 of whom were in Paraguay and 20 of whom were abroad. Paraguayan authorities arrested and charged 20 individuals operating in Alto Parana department involved in sending at least 24 victims to Turkey; these cases remained pending at the close of the reporting period. During the reporting period, ATU secured its first conviction without victim testimony and allowed video conferences in court. ATU held five workshops to train 150 officials from the prosecutor’s and attorney general’s offices and 30 police officers from the interior ministry, often with support from international organizations or foreign donors. ATU also trained 503 public employees from various levels of government in anti-trafficking prevention, prosecution and protection. Authorities did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking.
The government maintained uneven efforts to protect victims. The government lacked formal procedures for use by all officials for the proactive identification of victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons in prostitution, domestic workers, or street children. Paraguayan officials did not collect comprehensive data on victim protection efforts and did not collectively nor comprehensively report how many trafficking victims government agencies identified or assisted in 2015.
Most victims lacked access to comprehensive care. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MWA) provided female victims psychological support, social assistance, legal advice, and funding for victim care, including for shelters, food, and reintegration programs. During the reporting period, the MWA assisted 41 female trafficking victims who received services for the first time, 35 women for additional follow-up, provided 71 specialized services that included legal, psychological and social services, and assisted 63 women through its hotline. As of August 2015, MWA supported 24 child trafficking victims with shelter, food, housing and counseling. The Children and Adolescent’s Secretariat (SNNA) provided limited services to minors. The SNNA-run shelter assisted 50 child victims in 2015. In October 2015, the SNNA, in partnership with a local non-profit, opened Paraguay’s second trafficking shelter to provide services to girls and female adolescent victims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported its identification of 28 sex trafficking victims in Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Mexico who were recruited for work and later exploited in forced prostitution in brothels. Turkish and Spanish authorities identified the victims through government papers and self-identification. Spanish authorities rescued 12 of the 28 victims and repatriated them to Paraguay, while the other 16 victims allegedly remained in those countries. Services for male victims remained virtually non-existent. The government lacked effective programs for trafficking victims to reintegrate into their communities. The government did not establish a national fund for trafficking victim assistance or a trafficking victims compensation fund, both required by the 2012 law.
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. The government offered social and legal assistance to trafficking victims and arranged transportation to facilitate victim testimony. Under current law, victims are entitled to file civil lawsuits, although none did in 2015. All victims sought criminal action, and one victim received monetary restitution from a trafficker as part of their sentencing in 2015. While there are statutes in place that allow the government to inspect brothels, NGOs report that municipalities have failed to combat trafficking by continuing to issue certifications allowing ongoing operation of brothels where the public ministry’s ATU had previously discovered victims. Government officials arrested and detained some child soldiers in centers for youth offenders for alleged participation in guerilla activities. Labor inspectors did not have the capacity or expertise to screen for potential labor trafficking and, when discovered, did not typically refer potential labor trafficking cases to law enforcement for criminal investigation. The government could offer temporary residency status to foreign trafficking victims, but did not report doing so in 2015.
The government made modest prevention efforts. The government did not establish, or provide funding for, a national anti-trafficking secretariat, a key measure of the 2012 anti-trafficking law. However, the anti-trafficking roundtable, responsible for national working-level coordination, remained active and worked closely with MWA, the SNNA and the ATU, although it had limited effectiveness given a lack of funding and limited interagency coordination. The national anti-trafficking action plan, drafted by the anti-trafficking roundtable in 2015, had not received presidential approval. MWA continued to support 11 regional and four municipal anti-trafficking roundtables that varied in effectiveness. Authorities conducted a variety of workshops and several trafficking awareness campaigns for public employees, prosecutors, and other staff explaining how to detect and report trafficking cases. MWA coordinated various anti-trafficking awareness campaigns for the general public, reaching 755 people. ATU utilized four regional centers to provide anti-trafficking training to 11,428 individuals. In October 2015, a new domestic employment law was signed that raised the minimum age for domestic workers from 14 to 18 years old. The law targets criadazgo, where children work as domestic servants in exchange for room, board, and basic education. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel or peacekeepers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.