Human Trafficking in Venezuela: A Forgotten Crisis Affecting Venezuelan Women

Over the past decade, Venezuela has endured a number of issues incurred by unstable political climates and fluctuating economic stances – both of which have contributed to the security of civil society, and more specifically, women. With such uncertainties lingering over the country, human trafficking has progressed rapidly and affected a growing percentage of vulnerable individuals in the nation’s communities, often separating women from their families. Lack of jobs, food, housing, and security, has forced a number of Venezuelan women to seek opportunities in the expanding sex industry through unconventional means, in order to provide for their loved ones. This includes selling sex in neighbouring Colombia and other Latin American countries without appropriate documentation or providing sexual services through illegal avenues. Human traffickers and criminal organisations have since taken advantage of the numbers of desperate women seeking work and continue to exploit them on a larger scale by promising employment, benefits, and security, but unfortunately do not follow through with such promises.

Statistics have found that a shocking 4500 female sex workers are currently being exploited in Colombia, and without appropriate work authorisation or documentation, these women face real risks of mistreatment by their clients, the withholding of their income, and overall exposure to physical violence, including infringements of their right to appropriate healthcare.

The U.S. government currently ranks Venezuela as a Tier 3 country with regard to the severity of the trafficking issue within its borders, one of the most severe in Latin America. This ranking is measured according to the effective and appropriate steps that international states have taken to address and combat human trafficking on the domestic level. While the U.S. acknowledges that Venezuela has made some efforts to address the issue itself, it continues to note that there remains little evidence that those accused of human trafficking violations in Venezuela were formally charged or prosecuted, thus resulting in a continuation of violations. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State noted that little evidence was found that the Venezuelan government took further steps to address the problem beyond simple recognition.

While the instability of Venezuela does negatively affect women, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime argues that organised crime, such as human trafficking, would be unsuccessful without the aid of, ‘systemic corruption’. This means that Venezuela would not only need to address their issue directly in relation to economic means, but also understand how their political influence impacts national corruption and the enforcement of anti-trafficking measures and prosecution of traffickers.

In order for Venezuela to effectively combat the growing trends in human trafficking both across and beyond its borders, it must first curate and implement legislation that addresses the problem and how it affects Venezuelan women’s rights as a whole. It must also develop avenues for legal remedies to protect women affected by human trafficking, forced labour, and prostitution by working with surrounding governments to prosecute offenders on both the local and international scale and encouraging local law enforcement to follow similar protocols. Finally, Venezuela must provide a sense of security and safety for its women to ensure that they are able to actively participate and develop in an ever-changing society, free from the ultimatum of risking their human rights for jobs that provide little return and often negatively affect both their physical and mental wellbeing.


Moloney, Anastasia, Venezuela Crisis Forces Women to Sell Sex in Colombia, Fuels Slavery Risk (2017)< >  Retrieved 10 May 2018.

Cadogan, Chris, Women in War: The Rise of Gendered Violence in Venezuela < > Retrieved 14 May 2018.

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, 2017 Trafficking Persons Report (2017), <> Retrieved 10 May 2018.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime, The Role of Corruption in Trafficked Persons (2011) < > Retrieved 10 May 2018.

Sader, Alejandra Fernandez, Remedies for Human Trafficking in Venezuela: Critical Analysis of the Legal Framework (2017) < > Retrieved 14 May 2018.

Photo: “NOT for sale: human trafficking” by “Ira Gelb” Licensed under Public Domain Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0). Accessed 14 July 2017.

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