Trafficked: Sex slaves seduced and sold


Every year thousands of women are forced into prostitution and traded from Mexico to the United States. The BBC investigates the sex trafficking business, which makes some men very wealthy at the expense of vulnerable young women.

Warning: Viewers may find some of the video content disturbing.

  • Rural traffickers' town
  • Sold for sex
  • Brothels on wheels
  • 'John School' for clients
  • Traffickers' town

    Tenancingo is a Mexican town built on sex trafficking - with little alternative employment, it's become the only way to make money. Young women from across Mexico are duped into becoming sex slaves by wealthy men living in grand homes, offering them work or even marriage. Needing money for their families, the women discover too late they're being sold into prostitution, often in the US. One Mexican charity estimates there are 1,000 traffickers in Tenancingo, out of a total population of 10,000.

    Global trafficking figures
    • $32bn Annual human trafficking industry (almost £20bn)
    • 9.8m Total involved in unpaid work or prostitution
    • 800,000 People trafficked across borders every year
    • 79% Of people trafficked are women/girls
    Source: Congressional Research Service/UN global report on trafficking/ILO
  • Sold for sex

    "Maria" was 17-years-old when she was lured to Mexico with promises of a new life. Instead she was forced into prostitution and sold from one bar to another. For those women trafficked in Mexico, the capital, Mexico City, is a central hub. From there, many are smuggled to the US, or exploited in border towns and tourist resorts. The Mexican Congress has plans to crack down on trafficking; those accused will be jailed during trial and victims guaranteed anonymity. Corruption among Mexican officials at state level has hampered prosecutions in the past.

    Trafficking figures in Mexico
    • 100,000 Latin Americans trafficked across borders per year
    • 47 New prosecutions in Mexico City in 2010
    • 4 Trafficking offenders convicted
    • 4-17 years Length of sentences
    Source: Congressional Research Service/Mexico Attorney General's Office
  • 'Brothels on wheels'

    Many trafficking victims are taken to New York, where they often work gruelling shifts of 10 hours or more. Some women live and work in a brothel, only leaving the building when their pimp moves them to a new location. Other women are advertised on "chica cards", distributed in the street. Customers call the number on the card and women are delivered by car to a customer's house or hotel room. The women live in fear, frequently assaulted by their pimps and customers.

    Trafficking figures in New York
    • 14-19 Average age of victims
    • 25-30 Average number of male clients per shift
    • $30 Average amount paid for 15 minutes
    • $5,250 Average a brothel makes a week per woman
    Source: National Human Trafficking Resource Center
  • 'John School'

    The US has a federal anti-trafficking law and New York state has its own tough penalties. Though strong laws are in place, the problem is enforcing them. Women who co-operate in trafficking investigations can receive special visas allowing them to work legally. But convicting pimps is still difficult as many of their victims are too terrified to give evidence against them.

    Reducing the demand for prostitution is seen as one key to ending sex trafficking. In Brooklyn, New York, the district attorney's office runs a controversial programme to treat men convicted of using prostitutes. Called "John School" the men are taught that the women they are soliciting may be the victims of a sex trafficking operation.

    Trafficking figures in the US
    • 103 Human trafficking cases prosecuted in 2009/10
    • 181 Individuals charged
    • 141 Convictions
    • 11.8 years Average prison sentence
    Source: Trafficking in persons report 2011, US Dept of State

Produced by Laura Trevelyan, David Botti, Ignacio de los Reyes, Chuck Tayman, Nada Tawfik, Mark Bryson, Claire Shannon, Luke Ward.



This entry is now closed for comments

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  • Comment number 30.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Men need to have sex. Legalize it and make it safe. Seems simple and logical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Just because something has existed for thousands of years doesn't make it right. Slavery has existed for thousands of years and it was degrading for the Jews as it was for the Africans just as it is for sex slaves. Slavery is the superficial issue, what needs to be addressed is the understanding that every human being has inherent dignity and need to be treated as such.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Human trafficking is the inevitable result of trying to ban prostitution. I'm in favour of taking the same stance as the Netherlands: legalize it and only attack brothels which are believed to be affiliated with unethical activities such as this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Human trafficking and drugs are problems widely known in our society. Justifying their legality by basing on low corruption by legalizing drugs and solicitation is an invalid argument. In my viewpoint, legalizing them would only add to the problem with grim picture for upcoming generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Sorry to state the obvious, but there are so many illegal mexican women already here in the US, I wonder it is worth these coyotes' time to bring in more and judging by the huge numbers already on the streets in LA, I'd say the market was pretty much saturated. Some will deem this post offensive - it's not meant to be - merely making an observation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Sadly James you cannot put the letters STD after your name on a CV, which is the only thing you've gained from your habits.

    Mrs Migginz GCSE

  • Comment number 22.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The glaring hypocrisy is there for anyone to see as developed countries often describe how corrupt the rest of the world - (developing countries) are and how much crimes they commit. Sadly, the only difference is that developed countries are more sophisticated in their crimes/corruption.Prostitutes are "Escorts" Bribes are "Political Campaign Contributions", Financial Fraud is "Capitalism/Profits"

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Most if not all men who sleep with prostitutes are married. I think we should tackle the problem at source and ban marriage. Also, Rosetta would make a good dominatrix with that temper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    BBC. Mexico! You should try the North West of England as a follow-up story, regarding recent weeks there....

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Prostitution is said to be the oldest profession in the world. Sex is one of the basic human needs.Man is polygamous by nature. When politicians themselves indulge in debauchery they give boost to the trade. Why Mexico, most of the countries in the world face the problem of sex slavery. Lack of education and poverty give fillip to the trade. Serious incarceration sans bail is the need of the hour

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The fact that human trafficking exists in this day and age is truly sickening. Maybe if our government would pay more attention to this problem instead of building up it's military for more expansion into the Middle East and Central Asia, this would go along way toward curbing it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    the freedom of the human body is that of its owner. Sex traffickers are free to do what they want with both women and men, because the laws of hypocritical countries such as the USA force the workers into illegality. John school focuses on a criminality as false as the war on drugs, for the sake of the religious right and bible-thumpers. Legalization will allow women to report on abuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Drug and prostitution are immoral ways of earning a living. Those who do it are un-educated, young and the Mafia Organizations that run the show are well established and offer an attractive out let to those in need. The way out is education, desent jobs and population control that requires global effort.Like wise Governments should focus on serving the people they rule & not only their size.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    "Every year thousands of women are forced into prostitution and traded from Mexico to the United States."
    The key word is "forced."The girls are not in business for themselves.Even if prostitution was legal,traffickers would find a way to use other human beings to make a profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    If the problem you're trying to tackle is sex trafficking, tackle THAT and don't waste time and resources on fighting what has existed for thousands of years and is not harmful to anybody if done out of free will and with mutual understanding by both parties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    There will always be a demand for sex, drugs, etc. These demands are not going to end because they are made illegal; that will only push it underground. The better way may be to accept that they are a part of life, and to legalise and regulate them. Then people may not have to turn to those who provide these services illegally. The experience of the Netherlands and Portugal is worth studying.


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