For many in Argentina, the image of the “missing person” vividly recalls the forced disappearances of the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Despite 32 years of democracy, however, thousands of people—particularly women and young girls—are still unaccounted for in Argentina.
According to UNICEF and Argentina's Ministry of Justice, Security, and Human Rights, more than 4,000 people become victims of the slave trade every year. One element of the trade is kidnapping, which typically targets young girls and women, as well as young boys, who are then plunged into the world of prostitution:
Esta modalidad abarca casos de secuestros de niños, niñas y adolescentes para transformarlos en verdaderos esclavos, carentes de todos los derechos, en objetos en poder de otros que dirigen sus acciones y su vida misma.
This involves the kidnapping of young boys, girls, and teenagers, who are then forced to become slaves deprived of all of their rights, [and] objects belonging to other people who are then in control of their every move and their entire life.
In 2006, Argentina implemented the Law against Human Trafficking (Law 26.364), and in June 2015, according to the officials, 8,151 human trafficking victims have been freed thanks to this legislation.
While human trafficking may not be a new problem, it has been cast into the spotlight recently due to the story of Marita Verón, a young girl of 23 who disappeared from the city of Tucumán in April 2002. She was reportedly kidnapped and sent to work as a prostitute in Argentina's northeast. In light of allegations that police and local politicians collaborate with the trafficking rings, the victim's mother, Susana Trimarco, has tirelessly dedicated herself to finding the young woman on her own.
Thirteen years have passed since Marita's disappearance and she has still not been found. On her search, Susana met the families of other young kidnap victims who managed to escape their captors. She was led to the realization that her daughter's story is not an isolated case, and that there are organized prostitution rings dedicated to the kidnapping and trafficking of women, many of which rely on political and police support. Having discovered this, Susana committed herself to the fight against human trafficking and founded the Fundación María de los Ángeles, a group that receives reports of missing people and offers support and counseling to the victims’ families.
Verón's case gained the public's awareness thanks to Vidas Robadas, a 2008 soap opera shown on national television station Telefé, which appealed to the country's civil society to come together to fight back against kidnapping. This hasn't been the only effort to draw social attention to the issue. Many producers and artists have contributed to raising awareness about human trafficking in Argentina. For example, the transmedia documentary Mujeres en Venta (Women for Sale) offers a global perspective on the problem. The program shares the heart-rending testimonies of victims, and experts discuss methods of “recruitment” and “deprivation of freedom” implemented by the human trafficking rings.
(Video in Spanish)
There are also fictional pieces that tackle the subject, such as the short film by Gustavo “oRni” Fernandez, Undercover: Human Trafficking, which has an unexpected twist to its ending.
(Video in Spanish)
Alternatively, the fictional short ALMA, which is directed by Marcela Suppicich and declared to be of “social interest” by the Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, tells the story of Alma, a young girl kidnapped by a human trafficking ring, and is a much needed wake up call on the subject.
(Video in Spanish)
Meanwhile, in the world of comic strips, reporter and cartoonist Julieta Arroquy uses her popular character Ofelia to trace parallels between the disappearances of women such as Marita Verón, Florencia Penacchi, Érica Soriano, and María Cash, and the forced disappearances that occurred during the military dictatorship.
Likewise, various campaigns have been launched on social media to raise awareness about the victims and to help end their suffering:
Sin clientes no hay trata pic.twitter.com/FtWqVQGOZx
— Elvia Carrillo Pto. (@DonaElvia) June 10, 2015
Without clients there's no trafficking
— Edison B. Urbano (@ElPayanes) March 16, 2015
#NotoTrafficking Without clients there is no trafficking. REPORT FREE ON LINE 145. ARGENTINA