Since becoming aware of sex trafficking as a global problem, I think about it often when I travel. Currently I am living in Costa Rica in Central America, where prostitution is legal and booming. In fact, it is becoming more and more of a hotspot for sex tourists, who do not want to travel as far as Asia to buy sex.
Not only are Costa Rican girls and women trafficked into Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, and Japan, but foreign girls from Russia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Eastern Europe have been identified as victims of forced prostitution in Costa Rican bars and strip clubs. Child sex tourism is flourishing in regions such as Guancaste, Limon, Puntarenas, and San Jose.
On the plane ride to San Jose, I sat next to an American man in his 40s who regularly visits Costa Rica by himself, though he has no friends, family, or business here. Hmm. It is no wonder why men are flocking here when there are articles like this one in GQ about getting laid in Costa Rica.
In my interview with the author of The Natashas: A New Global Sex Trade and The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It, Victor Malarek mentioned that Ludwig Feinberg, a trafficker that was kicked out of Canada, relocated to Costa Rica with his human trafficking operations. This guy has some serious business-savvy. Because legalized prostitution makes victims more difficult to locate, Feinberg, along with many others, is able to make a boatload of cash in a place like Costa Rica.
Down the street from where I live is a bar that is known locally as “Sonya’s Knob” (right). Prostituted girls work here under supervision of their “mothers.” I wonder what their stories are. Do they want to be there? It is a constant reminder to me of how exploitation of women exists everywhere.