[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

HONDURAS (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Honduras is principally a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Honduran victims are typically lured by false job offers from rural areas to urban and tourist centers, such as Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and the Bay Islands. Honduran women and children are trafficked to Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Belize, and the United States for commercial sexual exploitation. Most foreign victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Honduras are from neighboring countries; some are economic migrants victimized en route to the United States. Additional trafficking concerns include reports of child sex tourism in the Bay Islands, and some criminal gangs’ forcing children to conduct street crime.

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. During the reporting period, the government increased law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders and worked closely with NGOs on training and prevention efforts. However, government services for trafficking victims, particularly adults, remained inadequate.

Recommendations for Honduras: Amend anti-trafficking laws to prohibit labor trafficking; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including corrupt officials who may facilitate trafficking activity; increase shelter aid and victim services; develop formal procedures for identifying victims among potential trafficking populations; and continue efforts to increase public awareness.

The Honduran government increased efforts to investigate and punish human trafficking crimes last year. Honduras prohibits trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation through aggravated circumstances contained in Article 149 of its penal code, enacted in 2006, but does not prohibit trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation. Article 149 carries penalties of from eight to 13 years’ imprisonment, which increases by one-half under aggravated circumstances. Such punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government opened 82 anti-trafficking investigations and 18 prosecutions, and obtained 11 convictions. This represents an increase in anti-trafficking efforts when compared to results achieved during the previous year: 74 investigations, 13 prosecutions, and eight convictions. In one noteworthy case last year, Honduran prosecutors indicted two parents for selling their nine-year-old daughter to an attorney for sexual exploitation; the attorney was imprisoned on charges of commercial sexual exploitation, sexual relations with a minor, and production of child pornography. The government increased anti-trafficking training for public officials last year, and Honduran law enforcement authorities assisted neighboring countries and the United States on anti-trafficking cases, as well as with investigations of child sex tourism. However, defendants over the age of 60 are subject to house arrest in Honduras while awaiting trial; many of these accused offenders, including American citizens, flee or bribe their way out of the country and avoid prosecution. No specific complaints relating to trafficking-related corruption were received last year, though witnesses reportedly were reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement on corruption investigations.

The Honduran government made limited progress in its efforts to assist trafficking victims last year. The government operated no dedicated shelters or services for trafficking victims, though it referred child trafficking victims to NGOs, which could only serve a small percentage of those in need. Honduran NGOs continued to shoulder a heavy burden to provide victim care, and received no direct funding from the government. While the government increased training for police on identifying victims and referring them for care, NGOs report that referrals in practice are unorganized and uneven. Moreover, few resources, public or private, are available for adult trafficking victims. Victims were encouraged to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, and the government collaborated with NGOs to identify and assist victims who chose to serve as witnesses. However, many trafficking victims decline to cooperate due to fear of retribution from their traffickers or mistrust of police. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked. Honduras did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. During the past year, the government received training on identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as women in prostitution. In collaboration with an NGO, law enforcement officials in Tegucigalpa conducted raids to rescue children from commercial sex sites, though prostituted adult women were not screened for signs of human trafficking.

The government sustained efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period, particularly through conducting awareness campaigns, forums, and workshops across the country. The government’s inter-institutional committee met regularly to organize additional anti-trafficking efforts, and collaborated with NGOs and international organizations on activities. During the reporting period, the government made efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by training 500 tourism sector workers to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of girls, boys, and adolescents in the tourism sector.