Prostitution in Honduras

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Prostitution Laws Across the Globe: Legal in Honduras

Prostitution is currently legal in Honduras. Because there is no law prohibiting prostitution, it is a prevalent form of occupation, especially amongst women and teenagers in cities. Although similar institutions such as brothel ownership and pimping are illegal, lax prostitution protection laws have overall lead to a largely unchecked business in prostitution[1] especially amongst the workers. There are many causes of prostitution, but it is rampant in the country mainly due to high poverty rates. Prostitution affects adults but children as well. To each group, there are effects both personal and worldwide. Honduras as a nation has tried to curb these effects but have yet to find a stable solution.

Effects of Adult Prostitution[edit]

Mental and Physical Effects[edit]

According to a study, many commercial sex workers, both men and women, are exposed to sexual and physical violence. 71.4% of street workers were exposed to violence/physical danger and almost 90% were exposed to sexual violence.[2] On top of this, 73.5% of victims were physically abused in their childhood, showing the origins of such mental and physical effects of prostitution.

Another important aspect is the physical effects associated with the use of drugs by sex workers. In the same study, nearly 1 in 4 use commercial sex workers abuse cocaine, which as a recreational drug, has its own physical effects.

In terms of mental effects, 63.3% of Commercial sex workers have reported having suicidal behavior in life; this percentage was even higher amongst women. It is clear that prostitution in Honduran urban centers has created negative mental health issues among those who work in the field.

Sexual Effects of Prostitution[edit]

Although many may believe that prostitution can lead to high levels of HIV/AIDS, a medical report[3] from 2006 states that only “2.4%” of a sample size of 790 female sex workers had HIV. This is because of a surprising increase in the use of protection among sex workers. In fact, government programs have been put in place since the early 2000s for HIV and STI prevention in cities across Honduras. Because prostitution is profilic in cities have the in Honduras, these programs have proven extremely effective in reducing numbers of HIV incidents.

Child Prostitution[edit]

Map of Central America

Honduras has tried, unsuccessfully, to curb Child Prostitution in its country. The main reasons for this are an unchecked business in general prostitution and trafficking, and a large supply leading to this conclusion: children do sex work as a means of surviving.

Although this article is specific to Honduras, child prostitution can be viewed in Central America as a whole, because of the networks of prostitution rings from as north as southern Mexico to as south as Costa Rica.[4][5]

Causes of Child Prostitution[edit]

The first cause is poverty. Prostitution becomes a source of economic opportunity where there is a space of economic regression.[4] Many children who go into prostitution are forced by the parents in order to provide for the family. In a country where there are low literacy rates in rural areas, there is little opportunity to traditionally gain economic prosperity through schooling. Sex-tourist agents, therefore, go to the countryside in order to find these children and to contract them out for work. The agents pay the parents large sums of money that would be returned through labour contracts done by their children. Essentially, money is given, then paid back through sex labour.

Another cause is the promise for a better lifestyle. Some children willingly participate in the child prostitution industry because they believe the quality of life would be better than it was before.[4] Some children are homeless or surrounded by gang activity and find similar outlets to survive.

Another large issue is gender roles. Women in Honduras are seen as sexual objects and treated as such. This is why violence levels are high amongst sex workers. Because these women are fundamentally seen as passive objects for a man's pleasure, they are dehumanized and treated as less than human.

Effects of Sex Work on Children[edit]

There are extreme mental effects of sex work on children. Children suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, but also a general lack of confidence and self-worth because they are used as tools. Children have been found to also struggle from Complex post-traumatic stress disorder after they have grown up, because of their experience when younger.[4]

There are also dangerous physical effects of sex work on children. They live in terrible conditions and are poorly fed, due to their contractors. They are also physically abused by these contractors if they do not deliver well on their jobs. [5]

Children are more likely to suffer from life-threatening illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV. Because of their young bodies, they are, unfortunately, more susceptible to transferring illnesses (STIs) due to how easily their genitals can break. [5]

Sex Tourism[edit]

Sex tourism is an issue that is tied to child prostitution because of the large demand by older, adult men. Usually, first world western men come to major Honduran cities like Tegucigalpa in order to have sex with minors for a low cost.

This goes to show that, although pimping is considered illegal, it is still done and an industry has arisen through illegal tourism. Because there is a demand for these children, there becomes a need for a supply. This is why alongside child prostitution there is also sex trafficking; that is the global selling of human bodies to be bought for sexual purposes, usually without the initial consent of the person who is being moved.

Sex Trafficking[edit]

Because of an uncostly and available population, trafficking has occurred both in and out of Honduras. These rings have extended their reach to even the United States. There are a few reasons why sex trafficking occurs.

The first reason is deceit. Sex workers are lured with the promise of a better life, are sold to wealthy people in the United States.[6] On top of this, those already in the industry voluntarily go to the United States because there is the opportunity for better.[7]

Another reason is government corruption. Although trafficking is illegal, countries have reported government officials helping in smuggling persons and drafting fake documents to facilitate such smuggling.[6]

As sex trafficking and prostitution go hand, so do their causes. A need for socioeconomic survival coupled with a lack of national support leads people to do sex work in unsafe environments with gang and trafficking activity.

Current Government Action / Policy[edit]

Honduras has struggled to make effective government policy to combat this issue. They had planned to implement a National Plan of Action to Eradicate Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, but the plan never came to fruition.[8]

Monumento al Niño UNICEF

The United Nations, the United states, and other international bodies have expressed policy to end child prostitution and sex trafficking. The number one policy to be put in place is ensuring safe and viable routes to economic prosperity which means increasing access to education. Other Central American countries such as Costa Rica have put in educational measures to ensure their young citizens have access to academic opportunity.[8]

The legislation that Honduras both has and has not implemented based on policy recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council will be discussed. Additionally, Non-governmental organizations like Casa Alianza and the International Labour Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour have created programs working alongside the Honduran Government to tackle this problem.[9]


  1. ^ 1)    Honduras. (2013). Retrieved March 09, 2017, from US Department of State
  2. ^ Rio Navarro, Javier, Julien Cohen, Eva Rocillo Arechaga, and Edgardo Zuniga. 2012. “Physical and sexual violence, mental health indicators, and treatment seeking among street-based population groups in Tegucigalpa, Honduras” Revista Panamericana De Salud Publica 31, no. 5: 388-395. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 2, 2017)
  3. ^ Ditmore, M. H. (2006). Encyclopedia of prostitution and sex work. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  4. ^ a b c d Beyer, N. (2001). The Sex Tourism Industry Spreads to Costa Rica and Honduras: Are These Countries Doing Enough to Protect Their Children from Sexual Exploitation. Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L.
  5. ^ a b c Guinn, David E., and Elissa Steglich. 2003. In modern bondage: Sex trafficking in the americas : National and regional overview of central america and the caribbean : Belize, costa rica, dominican republic, el salvador, guatemala, Honduras, 
  6. ^ a b Golob, T. A. (2014). Human trafficking from southern mexico, Honduras, el salvador, and guatemala: Why these victims are trafficked into modern day florida (Order No. 1555111). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1530474424). 
  7. ^ Trafficking in Honduras. (2010, September). Retrieved March 09, 2017, from
  8. ^ a b  UNICEF. (2015). Prevention of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents: Contributing to a Sustainable Tourism in Central America. Panama City, Panama: Child Protection Section.
  9. ^  Maalla M’jid, N. (n.d.). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (United Nations Human RIghts Council).