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Child’s first pimp might be Mom

by Garland M Baker on July 21, 2008

Second of two parts

Costa Rican girls — and boys — get into prostitution for a variety of reasons in Costa Rica. Most of the reasons have to do with family economics. Some households that cannot make ends meet push their kids into selling themselves.

In the campo, the countryside, some mothers tell their sub-teen girls to go hang out around the local bar to sell themselves to the patrons. The girls take their earnings home so the family can survive. In other cases, the mothers of these kids are just money hungry. The easiest way for them to make money is to pressure their children into prostitution.

Rufianería is the term used in law to describe this activity of pressuring someone — of either sex — into prostitution and living off those earnings. It is a voracious kind of pimping. It is more common in Costa Rica than most people believe.

Information for this article has been gained from a series of interviews with prostitutes who volunteered their life stories.

The young never have a chance to improve themselves. Prostitution is all they know from a very young age. As soon as they are older and they can fend for themselves, the family sends them off to San José or to one of the tourist areas in the country like Coco, Jacó, or Quepos.

In other cases, friends coax other friends into prostitution. They tell them about their lives in the big city where they can meet foreigners and make lots of money. Some of the young adults send some money home to support their families. Others get into drugs and pornography.

Prostitution is not on trial here. The vicious cycle is. The cycle that begins with mothers — and in some cases fathers — pushing their kids into prostitution to pay bills or worst yet, to pay for their vices. The police in Parque Morazán have seen fathers dropping their underage daughters off for work in the evening. The work the youngsters are given is to sell themselves as prostitutes to those in cars driving by the park or to the foreigners walking the streets.

Costa Rican law gives every adult the right to sell sex because prostitution is not illegal in this country.

The point is the children never become adults to decide if they want to sell sex. They are usually selling it way before they ever become adults because someone else pushes them into it. Once the cycle begins, it is almost impossible to stop. Young girls do not even finish sixth grade in school. With no education, they are doomed for the rest of their lives to prostitution. Usually, they have a multitude of children. It is common to meet a middle-aged prostitute with four, five or more kids.

What happens when the prostitutes are not young or cute anymore and they cannot sell themselves as readily as they once did? How do they feed all those mouths? Well, they end up on drugs or selling drugs to others. The children get no education and end up in prostitution, too. The boys usually end up in gangs and turn to a life of crime.

Many foreigners do not care where prostitutes come from in Costa Rica. They do not care about the social-economic problems that drive the young into such activity. They just want an ample supply when they come here for their sex vacations. Costa Rica’s lackadaisical attitude about pimping prostitutes contributes to the countries worldwide reputation as a sex tourism destination.

Costa Rica’s position on prostitution and pimping has put the country on the United States’ tier 2 watch list for human trafficking because women and children are trafficked in and out of the country for commercial sexual exploitation.

The country has become a mecca for foreign prostitutes because of Costa Rica’s sex tourism industry.

Most foreigners believe sex is a regulated business here. They believe the government controls prostitution and prostitutes run around with government-issued identification cards to prove they are free of disease. This is not true at all. Some of the major hotels that cater to hookers to increase their casino and bar businesses request identification but only to prove the person is an adult, nothing more. They do not request a health certificate.

The country may be on the verge of waking up. Sunday’s front-page headline in the country’s largest local newspaper is “Prostitutes work in massage parlors with business licenses.” The story was similar to that published here two weeks ago. These massage parlors are nothing more than businesses pimping the available prostitutes. The girls in these places usually work there and let themselves be pimped because they have a reason not to go to a local bar or hotel. They also like the mostly daytime hours.

Here are some other reasons: 1.) They are older or have lost their looks. 2.) They are pregnant. 3.) They are married or are involved in a serious relationship. 4.) they are in school or the university, or 5.) they are in Costa Rica illegally. Many of the girls in these places are from Nicaragua.

Curiously, pimping is illegal in Costa Rica but these establishments have business licenses, usually as a pension or rooming house. Everyone in the government and all the judicial authorities know and have known pimping goes on in these places. Everyone knows pimping is rampant in Costa Rica. It seems the country is exploiting its young and taking advantage of its disadvantaged for profit.

What is troubling is this attitude — sacrificing scruples for profit — goes beyond prostitution and pimping and exists deep inside the court system and politics as well.

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