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April 24, 2014
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Gov’t vows to target trafficking clients

Police arrest a man during a security operation last week that rescued 96 women in Buenos Aires City.

Justice minister says law will punish those who pay victims of crime for sex

The government will be working toward getting a law approved next year to criminalize prostitution clients, Justice Minister Julio Alak said yesterday.

The government’s move comes at a time when the Senate recently approved a bill along those same lines amid an uptick in measures that proposed earlier in the year as part of the government’s campaign against sex-trafficking.

Alak was short on details but he made the government’s intention clear.

“In 2014, we will be ready to begin criminally charging clients of trafficked sex workers,” Alak said. “This is the only business where the customer is never right.”

The bill that was passed by the Senate earlier this year and is awaiting Lower House approval would create a new legal standard making it much easier for public prosecutors to charge clients who seek out services involving trafficked sex workers.

The measure, presented by Senator Aníbal Fernández, would make users of sex workers who were trafficked liable to prison sentences of between four to 15 years, depending on the victim’s age.

The bill proposes to insert article 127 in the country’s Penal Code that would establish specific prison sentences for clients who “knowingly or should have known they had procured sex services from someone who was trafficked.”

FIGHTING TRAFFICKING

The Justice minister’s statements yesterday highlights how the government has taken a stronger focus on trying to combat sex-trafficking in the country.

Last Thursday, the Justice ministry presented statistics reporting that since the implementation of the prevention and sanctions against people trafficking, they had rescued 5,884 people in 2,745 raids.

The report also stated that more than 1,560 victims of trafficking were rescued in the first 10 months of 2013.

Buenos Aires City Security Minister Guillermo Montenegro announced just last Thursday that the metropolitan police had “freed 96 victims and arrested 25 people in more than 57 raids made in the last two weeks around the city.” Due to the raids, the city government official said that they had definitively closed up around 30 so-called bars that were really brothels with trafficked sex workers.

Woman rights NGO disagree

The prostitutes’ rights national organization AMMAR says the government is not addressing the root of the problem.

“This is the law the police want to implement...which will only end up hurting victims of trafficking,” Georgina Orellano, AMMAR national coordinator told the Herald yesterday. “The police are part of the trafficking network, when they raid places many times they let off the trafficker.”

At a time when President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration is being criticized by left-wing circles for a seemingly conservative shift, particularly having to do with the bill to reform the Civil Code, a measure that seeks to penalize clients of prostitution could be seen as another example of that move if it does not include safeguards to make sure independent sex workers are not affected.

Two other bills were discussed earlier this year that sough to punish those who pay for sex. One of the bills would punish those who would pay for sex from a trafficked worker, while the other didn’t make a distinction between the two.

Faced with these bills, AMMAR made its own proposal, saying it was time for a law that would regulate sex work.

For now at least, it seems the government is determined to go the way of key ally Senator Aníbal Fernández, with Alak calling it a potentially important tool in the fight against trafficking.

“This fight has become a top priority for the state,” Alak said, “and it already has a regional reach as part of an integration process that is growing with the sister nations across South America.”

Several organizatiosn that fight against trafficking have expressed support for a law that punishes clients.

Susana Trimarco, the mother of missing woman María de los Angeles “Marita” Verón, who she says was a victim of sex trafficking, has also become a strong voice in favour of a law that would criminalize clients who seek the services of victims of sex trafficking.

Herald staff

CFK set to smell like Mujica

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will have a very particular and “Oriental” item in her Christmas stocking this year, with Uruguayan film director Martín Sastre revealing yesterday he will send the head of state a perfume elaborated with flowers found on Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica’s ranch. The fragrance, labelled “U from Uruguay — which Sastre claims is the most expensive in the world — was said to represent the essence of the neighbouring country, but intriguingly also “the austerity of Mujica,” as well as the “indissoluble fraternity between the Argentine and Uruguayan peoples.”

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