Latin America is a land historically scared by prostitution and child sex exploitation. Although normally this practices evokes images of children abandoned to their luck in Southeast Asia, that lie at the mercy of curious tourists that flock to these places looking for “new experiences”, in Latin America this is a growing reality that has brought the United Nations to sound its alarms.
Peru is no exception. Human trafficking for sexual exploitation has become the second most lucrative organized crime in the country. It’s not for nothing that there are more than 1000 victims annually due to this dark business. Eight of every 10 are minors, children, above all girls between 13 and 17 years that are lacking other opportunities, in education, in family, missing a dream or hope that transcends day to day survival. Instead ending hidden in the dark night, awaiting clients who, although allies for a moment, can become the worse threat.
Teresa is one of these many lost children. Today she is 16 years old and has been a prostitute since 12, when her mother told she had to leave the house. It was then that she met Dora, a pimp that, in the midst of misfortune and abandonment in the cold and dirty streets in Villa Maria del Triunfo, in the south of Lima, lent her a hand. It’s Dora that watches her back, that gives her advice and that also brings her the clients. It’s strange to watch Teresa in front of the mirror, applying her make up as if it were a game, her look still hiding the innocence of hope. “And if I stop in front of God and ask him to change my life? Would he wipe away my sins, my needs, my 16 years of solitude? She asks to the camera, her words lost in nostalgia and dejection of a dirty room or rancid corner where grown men await with their paints at their knees.
Among the factors that bring youth and children to prostitution, experts have singled out two factors as the most relevant. On one hand, the lack of social recognition as beings in the process of forming themselves into individuals capable of controlling their lives. That is, the lack of a general notion of special protection measures that must exist in the environment of these youth. On the other hand, what happens many times, within this marginalization, is the search for social acceptance through the stereotype of a youth profoundly tied to sex, therefore legitimizing relations with adults. Television, publicity, marketing, all have taken a share of linking sexuality to bodies that are even more childlike: firm, smooth, slender, where the passing of time has not yet left its marks. This way Teresa would be a favorite gadget for the clients, which in turn converts her into a valued good for pimps, forming a vicious circle that has fallen over her destiny. Teresa is a victim of society, and its craving to worship youth, to freeze time just as she is today, with round eyes, innocent words, a school girl uniform and still latent dreams.