Mexico City – Mexico's lower house unanimously passed an anti-human-trafficking bill that establishes preventative and punitive measures and provides aid to victims of that crime.
The bill includes prison sentences of up to 40 years for those convicted of sexual exploitation and abuse and creates a fund to offer care to victims, the Chamber of Deputies said Friday in a statement.
The head of the Special Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, Congresswoman Rosi Orozco of the governing National Action Party, or PAN, said the bill goes after the entire chain of exploitation, from the people who entrap victims to those who hold them against their will and exploit them and even clients of sexual services.
"Not one more victim will have to endure injustice; the entire chain of exploitation will be punished and comprehensive care will be provided to victims to ensure their social reinsertion," Orozco said.
The Senate had earlier modified the original bill, whose wording could have been interpreted as only providing protection to minors and leaving out the vast majority of the real and potential victims of human trafficking in its different forms.
According to a report on sex trafficking that Congress received last month from the federal Attorney General's Office, at least 47 sex-trafficking rings operate in Mexico and 800,000 adults and 20,000 children fall victim each year.
That study stated that human-trafficking routes predominantly run through the Mexican states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero and Quintana Roo, as well as the Central American countries.
According to the National Shelter Network, a civil society organization that runs a network of shelters for women and children threatened by domestic, gender and sexual violence, human trafficking is a business that generates $30 billion annually.
The lower-house lawmakers also approved a separate bill to provide protection and rewards to people who assist in efforts to investigate and prosecute members of organized crime gangs.
The bills will now go to President Felipe Calderón for his signature.