THE BLOG

Mexico, We Are Watching

13/12/2016 10:43 GMT | Updated 13/12/2017 10:12 GMT
Nadya Lukic via Getty Images

I have a friend, her name is Rosi Orozco and she is a former Mexican senator. I met her two years ago at a conference in the Vatican. She was there to speak about human trafficking in Mexico, I was there to speak about the human trafficking of Eritrean refugees. The speakers of that years' conference became very close and for the past years we have all stayed in touched, supported each other's work and seen each other at least one time a year at the annual conference in the Vatican. When we saw each other last month, Rosi really needed our help.

Rosi had been working with human trafficking victims in Mexico for a big part of her life when she realized that it was only so much she could do from outside. She decided to try to get elected to the Senate and make some systematic change. She succeeded and in 2012, she helped push a bill that dramatically changed the business of human trafficking in Mexico and the reality of many victims. One of the biggest change this law created was that the burden of proof fell on the court instead of the victim, which made it easier for victims to dare to step forward and give their testimonies. She claims that this is the reason for the dramatic increase of prosecuted pimps and lockdown of thousands of brothels. It is a law that works, and yet now it is threatened to be repealed. When we met, it had already been voted to be repealed in the the Senate. Now, Rosi and her team are doing everything they can to stop it from being repealed in the lower house of the Mexican Congress when the vote on it later this week.

I am not an expert on human trafficking in Mexico but I am friends with many activists working to fight it and have had the honor to listen to testimonies from some survivors. Each time I hear them speak I am stunned by their strength. One of the women I have met is Karla Jacinto. She told the audience how she had been raped 43,200 times in the course of four years. After she fled, she was scarred deeply but with time and support from civil society, she started healing. Today, she is married, has a daughter and is a dedicated advocate and a phenomenal public speaker. There is a very conscious decision in calling these girls survivors, and not victims.

The new bill that they want to replace the old law is essentially removing article 10 which Rosi describes as the "engine of the car that is making everything run". The burden of proof will fall on the victim, giving them a bigger role in the proceedings and exposing them to their former trafficker which is putting them in an even more dangerous position than they already are in. This will discourage victims from daring to step forward. On top of that, the victims will have to wait three days after that they denounce a trafficker, and have given the police their personal information, to give their testimonies. In a country with widespread corruption and terrible records of female killings, three days can be deadly. Rosi is arguing that this result is the only reason to why they would suggest this change. Less girls like Karla would be able to flee, survive and thrive. I am a law student and I asked my criminal law professor if he possibly could come up with any other logical explanation to why they would suggest such a law. He could not.

When Rosi introduced me to one of her colleagues she explained to her that we were family. She was right. My uncle Seyoum Tsehaye has been imprisoned without a trial in Eritrea since 2001. Everyone I met at the first conference in the Vatican two years ago, including Rosi and the other Mexican activists, have since we met helped me share his story and advocate for his release. When they asked me to do write about this, I did not hesitate. When family is in need, you need to do help. But I also wanted people to understand that this is not just about Mexico, girls are being trafficked into the country from all over the continent and many of the customers are coming from the United States. This is not even just about the Americas, human trafficking exist in all of our countries and most importantly, human rights abuses are prevalent everywhere you go. When our government fails us, we are dependent on the outer world to join in solidarity.

When I needed their help, my Mexican family took on my story, shared it to their communities and firmly declared that Seyoum was their brother. Now it is time for me to do my job, and your time to do yours. Join us on our call to the Mexican Congress to put the interests of innocent girls in front of those of powerful cartels and costumers. Use your social media platforms, tell all your friends and family and ask them to do the same. Solidarity needs to cross borders and in this case, international solidarity will be essential if we want stop this bill from going through. We do not need more victims, we need more survivors. We do not need more numbers, we need more Karla's.

Mexico, be careful on how you vote. The world will be watching.