It was a very successful meeting and everyone is excited about the future. The Embassy already has plans in motion to work on the problem with prosecution of sex crimes in Costa Rica, which is a great start. There are many laws in the Costa Rican legal system against child sexual abuse and child prostitution, but the laws are not enforced. American offenders can not be extradited and the law enforcement does not follow through on enforcing and prosecuting the law. Just recently in Quepos the mayor was arrested twice for trafficking children across boarders for prostitution and child pornography and all charges were dropped both times. The ease of escaping any consequences is shocking and must be changed within the law enforcement side of the government. The lack of prosecution condones the child prostitution and makes it a safe place for individuals to sexually abuse these young children. Much like when working with children teaching, if there are no consequences in the classroom, there is do way to stop bad behavior.
This is so important for the Embassy, because US citizens are the major consumer. Around 80% of the Johns are US citizens that come to Costa Rica for the Sex Tourism industry, which is sadly a very popular industry in Costa Rica. Hotels specialize in sex tourism and even the cruise ships offer sex tour packages. The fact that prostitution is legal only acts as a gateway drug for sex with younger and younger girls and draws men to Costa Rica to have sex for money without consequence. With such a high demand and poverty, it is very easy for children to enter the sex industry. American tourists sadly only fuel the problem that brings in so much money for so many criminal individuals.
Both myself and Salvando Corazones want to push for a round table discussion that includes all the NGOs, the US embassy, as well as other embassy's of other countries. All these groups are doing such great things, but there is little cooperation. Only when all groups can come together and share their knowledge and materials to accomplish manageable tasks can lasting changes be made. I am very excited to be working with the US Embassy and I hope that our meetings can lead to a unified front as well as working together to bring some of the great organization in the states to help with training and education within Costa Rica.
Tomorrow is the big day when the Child Abuse Prevention Curriculum that I have created will get its first beta test at a local elementary school. I am very excited to see how children respond and to hopefully give some at risk kids the information to keep themselves safe.