The highlight of my UMD Short Term Study Abroad experience in Peru includes:
- being bitten by a snake in the Amazon jungle (it was literally in my shoes!),
- eating delicious food in Barranco (art district),
- ending up at an erotica museum in Lima,
- visiting the Sacred Valley of Cusco,
- tasting Alpaca meat,
- and getting altitude sickness at Machu Picchu.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games. The most important aspect of our trip is to learn about Human Rights and Public Policy. We met many leaders of different organizations to learn about their perspective on various issues such as human trafficking, indigenous rights, illegal gold mining, the informal economy, negative effects of climate change, and many more.
The most powerful piece of information I learned was about the Sex Trafficking that’s happening in gold mining towns.
When we were driving through a gold mining supply town, we passed by a “prostibar” (a Peruvian term for brothel). The prostibares are prevalent in gold mining towns because the miners seek entertainment through drinking alcohol and having sex.
The majority of women working in this industry are trafficked. They are often taken to the mining region under the false pretense of a better life and a good job. By the time the women learn about this, they have already supposedly owe the pimps so much money that they need to work it off. Women usually remain at prostibares also for the financial security or oppression of their families, attachment to their pimps, and the negative repercussions they may have from society for returning from a job at the prostibar.
My group was able to meet with representatives from Asociación Huarayo, who further explained to us of what this means for the Peruvian government and the gold mining economy. Asociación Huarayo provides shelter for children and adults who were forced to work for criminal organizations but have escaped. Last year, they recovered 59 women from prostibares, who are currently receiving psychological and legal help and reuniting with families.
As outsiders, there is nothing much we can do about this. We need to let the experts handle the sensitive nature of the issue itself and the country’s politics too.
However, as an active citizen of UMD, the United States, and even the world, I am sharing this information with everyone and anyone in hopes to spread awareness and shine some light on this topic.