With its white sandy beaches, luscious mountains, and temperate climate year-round, the Dominican Republic attracts more than five (5) million tourists each year. This accounts for close to 20% of the country’s income. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by horrifyingly increasing numbers in human trafficking victims, particularly children. Foreigners account for 25% to 30% of customers engaging in commercial sexual exploitation of children, which means that a large percentage of the buyers are Dominican.
Human trafficking in the Dominican Republic is the third largest international crime enterprise in the Carribean, generating appromiately $9.5 billion US annually.
It is estimated that one in every four sex workers in outdoor locations are between the ages of 13-17. Minors, as young as 9 or 10, can be obtained from motoconchos (motorbike taxi driviers) and taken to caba, where customers pay by the hour. Even more shocking is that any perversion the human mind can conjure up can be “found” in the Dominican Republic’s cities and tourists’ areas.
Dominican women and children are also subject to trafficking aboard. Victims have been identified in neighboring Haiti and throughout the Caribbean, as well as in Argentina, and some other Latin and Central American countries. Dominican victims of forced labor – field hands and domestic service - have been identified in all over Europe, Japan, throughout the Middle East, and the United States. The country has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco but in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy's largest employer due to growth in tourism and free trade zones.
Unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, history of abuse, drug use, and gang membership are all individual causes of rising human trafficking within the Caribbean. These alarmingly high rates of despair-causing factors are due in majority to the poor educational system.
Half of current Dominican elementary students will finish the 4th grade, roughly a third will complete the eighth grade, and 10% graduate high school. In addition, there is a drastic shortage of teachers, school buildings and financial support to provide the quality education necessary to adequately prepare young people for the future. The need to reverse this trend is imperative for the country’s future as well as for the well being of the children. In 2012, a law was passed that more than doubled spending on public education for the 2012-13 school year.
In the 2012 UNESCO report on education, less than 40% of Dominican teenage boys were in school. The Global Competitiveness Report of 2010 listed the DR third to last in the world for quality of primary education. A public school day lasts 3 – 4 hours and classrooms are often crowded with as many as 50 students per instructor. Private school education varies widely: from standards similar to the public school environment to excellent bilingual programs with small classes and high standards.
According to UNESCO’s SERCE, the Dominican Republic has the lowest student scores in Latin America for reading comprehension, mathematics, and science.
One in three teenagers do not attend school. Fifty percent of these teens left school to work because they didn’t have the funds to continue going to school. Most of these teenage dropouts are not encouraged by their society to stay in school.
When teens were surveyed on ways they could make a brighter future, 58% said to become a professional and 18% thought leaving the country is the best way.
A story of one young lady in the sex trade in the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, too many young ladies feel it is their only option.
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