WASHINGTON, DC – Alika Kinan runs a foundation based in Argentina to help women who have been victims of sex trafficking. She is also a consultant for the Argentine government on sex trafficking, using expertise gained as the first sex-trafficking victim to win compensation for her suffering and convictions for her perpetrators.
This is a happy ending of sorts to a devastating story of a young girl living in poverty who was raped at 14 and whose mother abandoned her just a few years later. By the time she was rescued in a government raid, Kinan had spent some twenty years in sexual servitude. She was the mother of three daughters and a survivor with deep emotional and psychological wounds.
The U.S. Department of State recently honored Kinan for her work to help sex trafficking victims in Argentina.
“These trafficking rings are very clever,” Kinan told Breitbart News. “They know how to choose their victims wisely.”
“Pimps are very subtle, they’re very selective,” said Kinan, now 41. “They know when a victim is desperate, so it’s an easy target for them.
“Especially when society has rejected these people,” Kinan said, adding that sex-trafficking victims are isolated and often shunned by their own communities.
“They don’t feel like they are connected to society,” Kinan said.
In addition to the physical abuse, emotional suffering continues long after survivors have gained freedom.
“I was also raped when I was 14 years old, so for me my sexuality, my sexual identity was not something that was emotionally valuable to me,” Kinan said. “I had no sense of self because my sexuality was pretty much eroded.”
“When your sexual rights, your sexual integrity are violated, especially when it happens at a very young age, what happens is you end up in these hostile situations,” Kinan said. “So it’s very easy for pimps to exploit women without much resistance.”
In 2014, Kinan founded the Gender Institute of Sapa Kippa that helps women access services they need to reconnect with civil society and get a fresh start rebuilding their lives, like medical treatment, housing, and job training.
She also is the first woman to win a civil case against her abusers in Argentina. In November 2016, she helped secure convictions of her traffickers and was awarded financial compensation for her suffering, according to the State Department.
Kinan’s pimp received a 7-year prison sentence and a fine of $4,500 last November, according to NPR. The pimp’s wife and the brothel operator received 3-year prison sentences, and the municipality of Ushuaia, Argentina, was ordered to pay Kinan $45,000.
Kinan said that victims of sex trafficking should not be criminalized because often they were forced into that lifestyle.
“I think we must change the laws and affect change that will allow us to help these women,” Kinan said.
The State Department event also honored other advocates for human trafficking victims. President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, praised the honorees and told them that tackling human trafficking was a priority for her father’s administration.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also spoke at the event.
“Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time,” Tillerson said. “It splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, and spurs other transnational criminal activity.”
“It threatens public safety and national security,” Tillerson said.
“But worst of all, the crime robs human beings of their freedom and their dignity,” Tillerson said. “That’s why we must pursue an end to the scourge of human trafficking.”
The event coincides with the annual release of the State Department’s human trafficking report. In the 2017 report, Argentina was labeled a Tier 2 country, meaning it does not meet the minimum requirements to prevent and fight labor and sex trafficking.
The report says, in part:
The Government of Argentina does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Argentina remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by identifying and assisting more victims, opening two regional anti-trafficking offices, increasing the number of investigations, and providing more training and outreach to improve protection and awareness-raising efforts. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Despite the increase in investigations and convictions, the number of prosecutions declined. In addition, the government did not confirm how many convicted traffickers served time in prison or how many victims it identified or assisted. Official complicity continued to be a significant concern, inhibiting law enforcement efforts.
Recommendations to improve conditions in Argentina included increasing prosecution of traffickers and more help to victims.
Shared Hope International, an anti-sex-trafficking advocacy group, said in May that Argentina is making strides in the battle against perpetrators.
Argentina has used an abolitionist system since 1930, incorporating rescue programs with police raids to help identify and separate victims from perpetrators. This allows victims to recognize their own status as a victim.
Furthermore, Argentina has begun providing legal representation for victims. This educates victims on their rights and the trafficking legal framework, and gives victims a chance to heal. Finally, in 2009 Argentina began incorporating an orientation for the prosecutor’s office, briefing prosecutors on the trafficking legal frame work and the severity of the crime. They also implemented a law prohibiting victims from being punished for crimes they may have committed as a result of their exploitation.
In total, Argentina’s success is coming as they increase their efforts to identify victims and then protect those victims from further exploitation. By creating this victim-centered focus, Argentina is seeing positive results and moving away from panic mode into planning and implementation mode.
Despite the trauma she’s been through, Kinan said she is optimistic.
“It all made me a stronger person; it made me a stronger woman who knew what her rights are; who strived to fight for my rights and who wanted to live,” Kinan said. “And I especially want to fight for the rights of other women in Argentina.”