(QCostarica) “The mother sells them right there in the house,” says Rachel, while holding her two-year old son. Rachel is not talking about the woman that sells perfumes or jewellery from her home, rather, sells her daughters.
This according to Rachel (and four of her friends), a teenager who became pregnant at the age of 12 and is now part of a group of adolescents under the care of the Iniciativa Mesoamerica project, a group that seeks to lower the number of pregnant minors.
In an investigative report, La Nacion consulted with a representative of the Ministry of Health, Nancy Vargas, confirming the existence of parents who offer their 11-year-old daughters for sexual encounters, for example, with owners of stores or bars, in return for the forgiveness of a debt or some other economic benefit.
Vargas confirmed that in fieldwork conducted in 11 districts of the Huetar Caribe and Brunca (southern zone), there are parents or guardians who take economic advantage of the sexuality of their children and adolescents.
The La Nacion team says it visited the province of Limon, deep in the banana plantations and pineapple farms, exacerbated by poverty and lack of opportunities, stories as described by Rachel are a daily occurrence.
Children are used as currency for the payment of a debt (liquor and gambling, for example), to improve their economic situation, to get a better paying job or simply for easy money, according to Vargas, is a reality of the area.
The offering of minors by the parents or guardians to have sex with an adult, is a reality that affects an unknown number of girls in different areas of the country, according to the experts.
“Go over there, let him touch you and bring back half of what he gives you.” With some variance, those are words heard often by children from their parents, narrates Sofia, a minor now under the care of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI) – the child welfare agency – from a Limon banana plantation community.
In Costa Rica, every 90 minutes a child is born to a mother between the age of 12 and 17, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Offering children for sexual purposes has authorities concerned. The stories, testimony and findings of social workers and specialists of institutions such as the PANI, the Ministry of Education (MEP), the Cen-CINAI and Ngo’s like the Defence for Children International (DCI), have allowed to shed light on this phenomenon.
According to the director of the DNI Costa Rica, Karin Van Kjuik, the situation is due to the environment in which the minors are raised. “What happens is that within breeding patterns there are multiple manifestations of violence. Care must be taken, because per se the families do not seek evil for their children.”
“Sometimes the family will think they (the young girls) are better off with these men,” added Kjuik.
“Unfortunately it happens. This is not a secret to anyone. It is not only in one area; It is something that happens all over the country. Is a reality that must be corrected,” says Dr. Tatiana Rivas, regional coordinator for Iniciativa Mesoamerica for the Huetar region.
Dr. Rivas emphasizes that complaints from the community and public officials is essential. For Rivas, the issue of age and mental maturity is a factor that plays against the minors, so it is important that relationships between a minor and persons five years older than them should not occur.
“The complexity is that many people begin to see the situation in a context of normality; I can not point out the places, but it occurs in rural areas and in cities; we are working for so that there is better responsiveness,” said Rivas.
Currently, stalled in the Legislative process is a bill to punish with prison sexual relations with anyone under 15 years of age.
The proposed bill seeks to prohibit marriage for minors and sets a maximum difference of 5 years between a minor and an adult to have sex. Violating the age difference would mean a prison term of 2 to 4 years, typifying it as an “improper relationship”.
Source: La Nacion