[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

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

Paraguay is principally a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as a source and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked into forced labor. Most Paraguayan victims are trafficked to Argentina and Spain; smaller numbers of victims are trafficked to Brazil, Chile, Italy, and Bolivia. In one case last year, two Paraguayan women were forced into arranged marriages with Korean men by a Brazilian-Korean trafficking syndicate in Sao Paulo. In another case, at least six children were trafficked to Japan for forced labor as domestic servants. The involuntary domestic servitude of adults and children within the country is a serious problem. Indigenous persons are vulnerable to forced labor exploitation, particularly in the Chaco region. Poor children are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers such as Asuncion, Ciudad del Este, and Encarnacion for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Street children and working children are common targets for trafficking recruiters. According to the ILO, some traffickers coerce underage males, known as “taxi boys,” into transgendered prostitution. Some of these boys are trafficked abroad, particularly to Italy. Trafficking of Paraguayan and Brazilian women, girls, and boys for commercial sexual exploitation commonly occurs in the Tri-Border Area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

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. Last year the government increased law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders, but showed limited evidence of progress in providing adequate assistance to trafficking victims. The revised Penal Code, scheduled to come into force later this year, reinforces the existing legal framework available to prosecute trafficking offenses and strengthens penalties against trafficking crimes. However, the government did not make sufficient progress in confronting acts of official complicity.

Recommendations for Paraguay: Intensify efforts to identify and prosecute trafficking offenses, including domestic forced labor crimes, as well as efforts to convict and punish trafficking offenders; launch criminal investigations of public officials who may have facilitated trafficking activity; dedicate more resources for victim assistance; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about human trafficking, particularly among those seeking work abroad.

The Paraguayan government increased law enforcement actions against trafficking offenders during the past year, but made insufficient progress against official complicity in human trafficking. In October 2008, the Paraguayan Attorney General’s office established an anti-trafficking prosecutorial unit with three attorneys and six assistants, which has increased the government’s investigation of human trafficking crimes. However, during the past year, some government officials, including police, border guards, judges, and elected officials, reportedly facilitated trafficking crimes by accepting payments from traffickers; other officials reportedly undermined investigations or alerted suspected traffickers of impending arrests. Despite the serious nature of such allegations, Paraguayan authorities took only limited steps to investigate acts of trafficking-related corruption and there were no prosecutions related to official complicity in trafficking offenses.

Article 129 of the 1997 Paraguayan Penal Code prohibits transnational trafficking for the purpose of prostitution, prescribing penalties of six years’ imprisonment. Articles 129(b) and (c) of a new code, which is scheduled to come into force in July 2009, will prohibit trafficking for the purposes of prostitution and forced labor through means of force, threats, deception, or trickery, prescribing penalties up to 12 years’ imprisonment. All the above penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for serious crimes, such as rape. To prosecute internal cases of human trafficking, including forced labor, prosecutors may also draw on deprivation of liberty and kidnapping statutes (articles 124 and 125), as well as other Penal Code provisions. During the reporting period, Paraguayan authorities opened investigations into 43 trafficking cases. Authorities indicted 11 traffickers and secured the convictions of four trafficking offenders in one case, who each received six years in prison. These results represent an increase in the government’s investigative efforts compared to the previous year, when the government opened nine cases and obtained the convictions of five trafficking offenders in two cases. Cross-border cases investigated last year include two Paraguayan women who were trafficked to Chile for commercial sexual exploitation; the victims helped to identify nine other potential sex trafficking victims. In another case, a 15-year-old Paraguayan girl escaped from a brothel in Buenos Aires and filed a complaint with Paraguayan prosecutors; 25 women were subsequently rescued from the brothel with the assistance of Argentine law enforcement

The government modestly increased efforts to protect victims of trafficking, but assistance in Paraguay remained inadequate overall. The government provides short-term services such as medical, psychological, and legal assistance, in addition to temporary shelter care for adult women and girls. Paraguay does not have shelter facilities for men, and boys are typically placed with families or in foster care. Foreign trafficking victims generally do not have access to government-operated shelters. The government provides limited legal, medical, psychological, and shelter assistance to Paraguayans trafficked abroad and later repatriated to the country through the Secretariat of the Repatriated and Co-National Refugees (SEDERREC); however, follow-up with victims was inadequate. The government provides a small amount of funding to anti-trafficking NGOs, but relies on larger NGOs and international donors to furnish additional victim assistance. During the reporting period, prosecutors identified 67 trafficking victims, including 20 children, and referred 51 victims for care, compared to 14 victims assisted in the previous year. Paraguayan authorities encourage victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, though some victims avoided the court system due to social stigma or fear of retaliation. Victims typically are not jailed, deported, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Paraguay does not have a formal system for proactively identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as prostituted women. Paraguay provides temporary or permanent residency status for foreign trafficking victims on a case-by-case basis.

The government conducted prevention activities last year. The government’s interagency anti-trafficking roundtable and the Women’s Secretariat sponsored educational seminars for 663 government officials, and the government works closely with NGOs and international organizations on additional anti-trafficking efforts. The government reported no efforts to reduce consumer demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.