By Dialogo August 08, 2013 In February 2013 the government enacted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Act which prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of one to eight years’ imprisonment, up to 12 years’ imprisonment if the victim is a child, and up to 25 years’ imprisonment in cases involving sexual assault or other aggravating circumstances. This law repealed and replaced the government’s previous anti-trafficking law. Notably, the new law elevated the offense of trafficking from a “summary offence” tried in the lower courts to an indictable offense tried before the Supreme Court. The prescribed maximum penalty of eight years’ imprisonment, up to 25 years’ imprisonment in some cases, is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with other serious crimes. During the reporting period, the government also passed the 2013 Commercial Sexual Exploitation Children (Prohibition) Act that criminalizes the facilitation of prostitution of children under 18 years of age. Additionally, sex trafficking and forced labor of Belizean and foreign women and girls, primarily from Central America, occurs in bars, nightclubs, and brothels throughout the country. Children and adults working in the agricultural and fishing sectors in Belize are vulnerable to forced labor. Forced labor has been identified in the service sector among the South Asian and Chinese communities in Belize, primarily in restaurants and shops with owners from the same country. In terms of prevention, the government continued to coordinate Belize’s anti-trafficking programs through an anti-trafficking committee of 13 agencies and NGOs chaired by a senior Ministry of Human Development official. During the year, the committee released a 2012-2014 anti-trafficking national strategic plan, which outlined steps to guide, monitor, and evaluate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The recently passed anti-trafficking law institutionalized interagency cooperation on trafficking in Belize by formalizing the role and responsibilities of the anti-trafficking coordination committee. The government continued its awareness campaign in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Hindi. The report recommends that Belize proactively implement the recently passed anti-trafficking law by aggressively investigating and prosecuting forced labor and sex trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in trafficking; take steps to ensure the effective prohibition of the commercial sexual exploitation of children; seek criminal punishment for any guilty trafficking offender; monitor human trafficking trial procedures, and ensure trafficking offenders receive sentences that are proportionate to the gravity of the crime; complete the anti-trafficking committee’s development and implementation of formal procedures to guide officials in proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, including among migrant laborers and people in prostitution, and refer them for care; continue to increase partnerships with NGOs to address reintegration of trafficking victims in Belize; ensure identified foreign victims are not penalized for crimes, such as immigration violations, committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; and implement a targeted campaign educating domestic and foreign communities about forced domestic service and other types of forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and other forms of human trafficking. The number of traffic convictions or sentences is not included, and it’s the most important indicator. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report published in June 2013 by the U.S. Department of State, the Government of Belize does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government enacted an anti-trafficking law late in the reporting period that raised penalties for human trafficking offenses. It also enacted a law prohibiting and punishing the commercial sexual exploitation of children under the age of 18. Belize is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. A common form of human trafficking in Belize is the coerced prostitution of children, often occurring through parents pushing their children to provide sexual favors to older men in exchange for school fees, money, and gifts. Child sex tourism, involving primarily U.S. citizens, has been identified as an emerging trend in Belize.
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