Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 22:15:21 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: CHILDREN-URUGUAY: Sex Exploitation a Growing Problem
Article: 61508
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 537.0 **/
** Topic: CHILDREN-URUGUAY: Sex Exploitation a Growing Problem **
** Written 2:13 PM Apr 17, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Sex Exploitation a Growing Problem

By Raul Ronzoni, IPS, 14 April 1999

MONTEVIDEO, Apr. 14 (IPS)—The body of a young girl recently was discovered hidden beneath a mountain of debris in a marginal neighborhood of the Uruguayan capital. The girl, Yamila, had been raped and strangled.

A few days later, in the town of Chuy on the eastern border with Brazil, police detained a photographer who for 10 years had been taking pictures of naked girls and teenagers.

The two incidents broke a wall of silence that had surrounded the growing problem of child prostitution in Uruguay and underlined the lack of official policy on the issue.

Yamila, 11, who was body was found at the end of March, was only one of dozens of girls who wander Montevideo begging or offering their bodies as prostitutes.

The money that Yamila took in daily was generally the only thing sustaining the family, her mother said when a court prosecuted her for the crime of inherent omission of the duties of parental authority. The mother denied that she forced her daughter into prostitution.

A few days later, a minor of 17 years, also a beggar and a friend of the girl, confessed to the crime. He said that Yamila refused to have anal sex with him, which triggered his violent reaction.

In the case of the photographer, he declared that I am a voyeur, a Peeping Tom. He photographed children in the nude in exchange for money given to people acting as intermediaries.

The investigators presumed that the 42-years-old man was part of child pornography ring, despite the fact that he denied selling his pictures commercially and claimed his sole objective was personal pleasure.

Social workers said the problem of child abuse, either physically or sexually, is further underlined by statistics from the state's National Institute for Minors (Iname) that installed a free telephone service in February. Since then it has received an average of 300 calls per month from children alleging they had been abused.

The implementation of this hotline has been the only official or private action on assessing the reality of abandoned minors.

According to Mariana Gonzales, a consultant at the Interamerican Institute of the Child (IIN), the sexual exploitation of adolescents for commercial gain remained a little- studied issue in Uruguay.

At the official level, it is treated as a relatively hidden and quiet phenomenon, while few cases reach the justice system or family courts, Gonzales said.

A survey into the phenomenon of child prostitution last October revealed that only 14 percent of respondents believed the problem did not exist, while 22 percent attributed its existence to the low economic status of minors.

Uruguay sent embassy officials to the World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors, which took place in 1996 in Stockholm, which implied an interest more formal than substantive, said Gonzalez.

The congress had little impact in the Uruguayan media and failed to provoke public mobilisation or any concrete declaration or plan of action. The summit's conclusions remained unknown to the various national institutions that work with children and adolescents, she added.

But the scant interest in the problem is not limited to the government.

In non-governmental organisations, there is also real reticence to qualify specific situations as sexual exploitation with commercial ends, indicated the IIN consultant.

On the other hand, among the specialists interviewed by Gonzales (officials from Iname, judges, forensic scientists, journalists and politicians), there was a widespread perception that, although poverty and marginalisation operate as vehicles for this type of prostitution, they are not the only causes.

The phenomenon is equally attributed to a intricate pattern of aspects linked to gender relations, the conception of childhood, intra-family violence, quality of life, life experience and a lack of family support, stressed the specialist.

According to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, 78 percent of the cases of detention of minors in Uruguay involved begging.

In a span of almost three years, in Montevideo, where 45 percent of the population resides, the Police Precinct for Minors detained only 54 minors for cases of prostitution.