There is a constant state of economic, moral and social crisis in
Venezuela. Funds for all public services, particularly those in education and health have
been severely cut by the government. Consequently, there has been an increase in the
number of early school dropouts and more sickness. High unemployment and an increase in
the cost of living have worsened the conditions caused by a decrease in salaries. Women
and children are the most affected sector. Pimps and transnational sex industry networks
have taken advantage of this situation by recruiting women and girls into prostitution and
trafficking. This contemporary slavery has become a means of survival.
There are an ever-increasing number of women and girls from all social classes who are
prostituted in Venezuelan towns and cities. They are exploited nationally or
internationally by sex tourism, trafficking, pornography and/or prostitution in brothels
or on the street. These women run a high risk of catching any sexually transmitted
diseases, including HIV. They are victims of physical and mental harm, such as
mutilations, dementia, torture, and in some cases death and disappearances. Young women
suffering from malnutrition as a result of alcohol and drug addictions and from sexual
violence are found in increasing numbers in nightclubs as well as red light and sex
Data on the current situation of Venezuelan children and women in terms of poverty
indices show that 71 percent of this population is living in poverty at the national
level, 87 percent in rural areas, and 69 percent in urban areas.
Adult women and children need to be informed about all the causes and effects of
prostitution and trafficking, and all the dangers they may fall prey to. They need to be
informed of their human rights and what legal resources they are entitled to. If they do
not know the dangers, or their rights, they constitute a "captive market" for
the global sex industry that is part of the world economy. They need to be alerted.
As risk increases so does the need to procure direct help to those affected by this
serious problem. In the same fashion it is imperative that there should be financial
backing for those projects designed to rescue women and girls and meet their physical and
spiritual needs. Prevention is also very important. In Venezuela there was a total lack of
preventative programs against sexual exploitation, so the Coalition Against Trafficking in
Women - Latin America created a prevention project to arrest the spread of prostitution
and trafficking in under-age and adult women at the national, regional and international
We developed preventative workshops against the sexual exploitation of women and girls
in Venezuela. The specific objectives of the preventative workshops were:
- To sensitize youngsters so that they become aware of the need for prevention given the
increase of prostitution and trafficking in women and female children. To address both
sexes, so both the "supply" and "demand" in the sex industry are
analyzed and discussed.
- To facilitate an analysis of womens human rights violations.
- To inform on risks of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS.
- To establish informed attitudes about these problems.
- To highlight those individual, family or social risks factors which make women and girls
vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
- To generate understandings of the different forms of sexual exploitation of women and
girls. To generate the will for change, and to create solidarity and collective effort.
- To strengthen the work against sexual exploitation of women and girls which is being
carried out by similar NGOs at the local and international level.
- To avoid an increase in the number of women and female children being sexually exploited
and victimized by trafficking within and outside the country.
The Preventative Program trains student mentors, who will in turn educate peers about
the reality of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The training of student mentors of
both sexes was designed to fulfil a requirement of their last year of studies, as
stipulated in the Education Law Article 27: "Besides those requirements to obtain the
High School or Technical diploma each student is required to participate in an activity
which benefits either the establishment or the community. The Ministry of Education gave
the appropriate guidelines so that this requirement was fulfilled." At the end of the
training program the student mentors were able to do the following:
- Trained mentors of both sexes were able to work on educational activities including:
human rights and prevention of prostitution and trafficking in women and children, and the
violation of womens human rights. These activities could be carried out in the
communities as well as in educational establishments.
- Trained mentors of both sexes, who by living and sharing in family and community life,
were able to generate and strengthen attitudes which carry human principles of
self-esteem, care, solidarity, communication, responsibility, freedom, and autonomy which
are currently lacking from the Venezuelan society.
- Trained mentors of both sexes, who were able to comfortably manage knowledge regarding
the consequences for: prostitution and trafficking in women and girls, lack of knowledge
of human rights, violation of womens human rights. Mentors should be able to
identify violators and/or abusers of either sex, be knowledgeable of vulnerability factors
and able to use appropriate techniques and strategies in such situations.
Those menitors of both sexes should become sound and permanent spokespersons against
the recognition of prostitution as legal work.
Each year in 1996 and 1997, 70 workshops were presented in secondary schools and in
poor communities in Caracas, Venezuela. The audiences were girls and boys, aged 13 to 23
years of age. Each year the workshops educated 3,500 people about the risks and harm of
sexual exploitation. In 1997, six training programs were held to train peer mentors. Sixty
people participated in each training.
Through the training programs for peer mentors and the educational workshops we hope to
prevent women and girls from being recruited into prostitution and trafficking.
Zoraida Esperanza Ramírez Rodríguez is an economist, born in
Caracas, Venezuela in 1949. She is the author of Prostitution and Underdevelopment: A
Feminist Approach (1994). She earned her degree from the Central University of
Venezuela (UCV) in 1987 with the presentation of her thesis Prostitution in Venezuela:
The sex industry creates "work" during economic crisis. Their "salary"
and contributions to the redistribution of the national revenue, which merited her
mention as an "Excellent Publication" and later that year was published by the
Advisory Board of the School of Social Sciences and Economics at UCV. This publication was
also awarded "Best Research" by the Venezuela National Academy of Social
Sciences and Economics. Since 1993 Ms. Ramírez has been the Latin American and Caribbean
representative for The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and became a Vice President
in 1997. As a member of the Coalitions Board of Directors, she has attended and
spoken at a number of international conferences as a delegate on its behalf, including
"Executive Committee ECPAT," El SalvadorCentral America in January
25-31/1998, "The II Journey Against Sexual Exploitation of Children," September
1997 in Argentina, "Working with Women and Girls in Prostitution: Programs and
Policies," 23-27 July 1997 in New York, U.S.A., the International Conference
"Violence, Abuse & Womens Citizenship," 10-15 November 1996 in
Brighton, UK, the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children,
August 1996 in Sweden, the Journey Against Sexual Exploitation of Children, June 1996 in
Argentina, the Seminary Against Sexual Exploitation of Children, April 1996 in Brazil, the
U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women and N.G.O. Forum held in Beijing, September 1995 in
China. Ms. Ramírez organized the internationally attended Latin American Conference on
Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Women held in Caracas in March 1994, and
subsequently compiled and published the findings in the book Acción Internacional
Contra la Explotación de la Mujer. In May 1995, she spoke at the Primer Congreso
Dominicano de Mujeres Prostituidas o Trabajadoras Sexuales in the Dominican Republic. In
October 1994, Ms. Ramírez represented the Coalition in Bucharest, Romania at the
Triennial Convention of the International Abolitionist Federation. There she was
designated consultant status to the Romanian Abolitionist Federation on issues of human
rights, prostitution, and trafficking in women in Eastern Europe. A designated member of
the Bureau "Pour Une Plate Forme Plus," Ms. Ramírez represented Latin America
and the Caribbean at their convention in Paris in 1995 (invited by the Federacion
Internacional de Derechos Humanos, UNESCO, and European Union). Ms. Ramírez is the
founder and Director of Planning, Budgets, and Financing for the Latin American Center of
Interdisciplinary Studies (CEFLEIN) where she has advanced feminist thought throughout the
region. From 1991 until 1994, Ms. Ramírez worked as a representative for Latin America
and the Caribbean for the Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women
(TW-MAE-W), an organization with consultative status to the United Nations Economic and
Social Council. In June 1993 she attended the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights on
their behalf. As the Venezuelan National Consultant to UNIFEM in the United Nations
Programs for Development (PNUD), her 1993 request to the Regional Coordinator of UNIFEM
helped expand the database and technical assistance in Venezuela on issues concerning
women. Ms. Ramírez is well known for her ample participation in the feminist movement on
both the international and national level. A feminist since 1968, she has expressed her
opinions by founding activist groups and magazines, speaking out on radio and television
programs, and publishing her ideas in the mainstream press. She has pioneered research and
developed campaigns to discuss topics such as: prostitution, womens human rights,
the plight of street children, abortion, nuclear energy and the arms race, ecofeminism,
and the role of the housewife. She is active in groups such as The Liberation Movement of
Women and is a founding member of others, among them, "Conjura" and "La
Mala Vida." Some of her greatest contributions to the movement are the creation of
the only two feminist magazines in Venezuela, "Boletín Una Mujer Cualquiera"
and "Revista La Mala Vida." In Venezuela, she has organized national events,
journals, workshops and theater and film events in order to spread the word about the
problems women face and to offer some possible solutions. From these efforts Ms. Ramírez
has seen tangible results including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd,
and 4th National Womens Forum for Artisans, Factory Workers, and
Cooperative Laborers. As an economist Ms. Ramírez has had a great deal of experience in
the area of the national economy. Through lending her time and work to ANPMICALS (National
Association of Small and Medium Industry), FEDEINDUSTIA (Federation of Small and Medium
Industry), and CORPOINDUSTRIA (National Corporation for the Development of Small and
Medium Artisan Industry), she has been an advisor to a great number of businesses. From
1990 to 1991, she worked as an advisor to the Ministry of Employment, researching for the
design and application of World Bank programs that affect Venezuelan women.