There has been a long tradition of women traveling from Haiti (both voluntarily and involuntarily) to the wealthier Dominican Republic to engage in prostitution. But in the months since the earthquake struck, traffic that was decidedly one-way has now become two-way. Increasingly, women from the DR are being trafficked to Haiti, where they are forced or coerced into prostitution. The reason? The massive influx of foreign aid workers and aid money has made Haiti an attractive destination for traffickers, as well as a source. Juanita's story is indicative of the changing tides of human trafficking on the island of Hispaniola. A friend convinced her to travel to Port-au-Prince for two months, claiming there was a lot of money to be made in the sex industry from all their foreign aid workers. But when she arrived, the pledged foreign aid money hadn't come yet (only 2% of what has been pledged has actually made it to Haiti). Juanita was forced to share the money she made with the club where she worked and her pimp. She was forced to sleep in a room with 25 women. And even though she felt unsafe and her pimp overworked her, she was afraid to leave. Besides, she hadn't been able to send any money home to her 2-year-old son, the whole reason she came to Haiti.
U.N. Peacekeepers and U.S. military personnel are forbidden from visiting brothels or paying for sex while on duty. But the number of aid organizations working in Haiti right now is so large, it's hard to tell who is doing what. And Peacekeepers have been caught with trafficking victims before. The U.N. is investigating the situation.
Natural disaters like the earthquake in Haiti sometimes shift human trafficking patterns in unexpected ways. But the best rule of thumb is that traffickers, especially sex traffickers, follow the demand. So if the DR is wealthy and full of men who can afford to buy sex, Haitian women will be trafficked to the DR. But if because of foreign aid Haiti is suddenly wealthy, traffickers will reverse their route. There are people vulnerable to trafficking in every country in the world, but demand is what dictates human trafficking business. And unfortunately, business is booming in the DR.