An umbrella organization of children’s rights groups has condemned the federal government for downplaying the seriousness of Mexico’s child trafficking problem, which includes the sale of young girls for marriage.
The Network for Children’s Rights in Mexico (REDIM) said Tuesday that human trafficking, including the sale of girls, is a crime that the Mexican state must investigate and eradicate.
“We condemn the prevalence of this practice, which under the argument of laws and customs of indigenous communities objectifies girls and adolescents in several entities of the country, such as the Montaña area of Guerrero,” REDIM said in a statement endorsed by executive director Tania Ramírez Hernández.
REDIM rejected the federal government’s “permanent disregard” of its responsibility to guarantee Mexican children’s rights. “It’s unacceptable that the authorities, with an adult-centric vision, minimize and downplay situations as serious as the sale of girls,” it said.
REDIM charged that the government’s attitude has led to “an intentional failure of the state to deal with this terrible practice,” referring to the sale of girls, which it said precedes crimes such as sexual violence and child marriage.
The organization’s condemnation came two days after President López Obrador said the sale of girls into marriage and prostitution is an exception rather than the rule in the Montaña region of Guerrero, where as little as 40,000 pesos (about US $2,000) can buy a young bride.
It also came shortly after a case came to light in which a 15-year-old girl sold into marriage at the age of 11 was jailed for 10 days after she fled the home of her father-in-law, who allegedly attempted to rape her.
Visiting the Montaña region last Sunday, López Obrador said a media campaign had made the sale of girls for marriage or prostitution appear to be a bigger problem than it really is.
“I’m not here to look at that because it’s not the rule,” he said. “There are a lot of moral, cultural and spiritual values in the communities. It might be the exception, but it’s not the rule.”
REDIM said in its statement that child trafficking is an underreported problem but nevertheless a growing one. Statistics show that at least 1,463 minors — 1,054 girls and 409 boys – were victims of human trafficking between January 2015 and July 2021, the organization said.
REDIM also said that the number of child trafficking victims increased 45.8% to 261 in the first eight months of 2021 compared to the same period last year. Just under 70% of the victims between January and August this year were girls.
“The minimization of this problem is unacceptable” given that statistics show that 2020 and 2021 are the worst years ever for femicides, human trafficking and child pornography, REDIM said.
It also said that 6.8% of girls aged 15 to 17 and 0.6% of girls aged 12 to 14 were married or living with their partner in 2020. The figures for boys of the same age were 2% and 0.3%, respectively.
The percentages are higher in certain states, including Guerrero. Data from the National Statistics Institute shows that 11.8% of girls in Chiapas aged 15 to 17 are married, while the figures for Guerrero and Michoacán are 11.1% and 10.2%, respectively.