in brief: journalist in mexico faces death threats while researching sex trade
Lydia Cacho has a reputation for being the bravest journalist in Mexico, and her recent profile by The Guardian shows why. Her recent book, Slavery inc: the untold story of international sex trafficking, has resulted in death threats, the lose of friends too afraid to be seen with her and, in 1999, she was attacked and raped in Cancun in an act she believes to be “punishment” for her work. For a time she travelled in an armoured car with federal bodyguards. She was rid of them after the car was tampered with. Despite the pressure from her antagonists, she continued her research. ‘I don’t scare easily’.
Cacho was, however, recently forced to leave Mexico. On 29 July, a man was able to interfere with her satellite radio and use it to threaten her. The man called Cacho on it and threatened her, saying, ‘We are going to send you home in pieces’. Security experts and her lawyers told her to leave her house immediately. She took her passport and a bag and left.
Lydia endures, convinced that her work is important. She has travelled to the world’s sex tourism centres, piecing her work together through the stories of women and children. She had once been open to the idea of legalised prostitution but has since been convinced otherwise. ‘I’m absolutely convinced all forms of prostitution are just a way of normalising discrimination against women.’ Stories of women making thousands of dollars didn’t convince her otherwise: ‘They start telling you how miserable they are… They start giving you little stories that are stories of violence’.
And those stories stretch further than one may think. ‘Everyone kept telling me… that this isn’t an international business. But it is.’ While figures for the number of people trafficked is difficult, the International Labour Organisation has said that 2.4 million people are, at any one time, trafficked into forced labour. At least 43% of those people are forced into the sex industry (2005 estimate).
Facing a reality like that, Cacho’s work seems even more vital. She has been offered asylum in several countries but has refused, stating that Mexico badly needs good journalists and that she ‘wants to be there to see the change’.
In a country where 67 journalists have been killed since 2006, one may think that the cost of that change may be growing too high. But Cacho is defiant: ‘We are journalists because we want to change the world. I think my job has made a difference.’
By Cory Zanoni