What are the needs of Venezuelan migrants to Colombia engaging in transactional sex?

First results of the ListenH project
ListenH project in Colombia - woman writing on a sticky
ListenH project Colombia - two women walking along path
Catalina Correa Salazar

There are specific groups of migrants and areas of Colombia where populations are most vulnerable and victimizers are often the people meant to protect migrants (i.e., immigration authorities, police, doctors).

These are some of the first findings of a project investigating transactional sex aminds humanitarian crises.

The migratory journey and the resettlement experience entails many risks for Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Colombia, as they face myriad forms of violence, armed actors and xenophobia. In a the first Colombian team meeting of the ListenH project on understanding transactional sex amidst humanitarian crises, the research team discussed specific risks for minors and the problematic relationship with institutions after migration. These were some key takeaways of a recent workshop in Colombia of this project funded by the Dutch Research Council NWO.

'... understanding transactional sex dynamics in Colombia with different migrant/refugee populations'

The Venezuelan humanitarian crisis has unleashed one of the largest exoduses of migrants/refugees in the Western hemisphere. Colombia has been the main receiver of migrant flows, hosting a little under 3 million Venezuelans. Colombia, a country with a history of armed conflict and civil war, has one of the largest populations of internally displaced people (IDPs) and currently also faces not only the humanitarian crisis caused by Venezuela but also is witness to increasing migration flows from all over the world seeking to cross the Darién gap to reach the United States.

The ListenH project has been working on understanding transactional sex dynamics in Colombia with some of these different migrant/refugee populations. The team met in Cúcuta at the Colombian-Venezuelan border to conduct a workshop on participatory analysis and to discuss preliminary findings of the project after conducting over twenty interviews in two cities. 

After three days of discussions, the team concluded that there are specific groups and areas of the country where populations are most vulnerable and that victimizers are often the people meant to protect migrants (i.e., immigration authorities, police, doctors). Adolescent girls and trans women face increased risks along migration phases too.

Continuing research into transactional sex

The team will continue to conduct interviews as analysis starts, following an iterative participatory methodology to discuss findings as they arise. 

The goal is to reach 80 interviews, including populations like IDPs, migrants and refugees from Venezuela, people previously engaged in guerrillas/gangs, Colombian returnees from Venezuela that engage in transactional sex dynamics amidst the current humanitarian crisis. Findings for now where presented at the Universidad de los Andes and in Cúcuta to local organizations, humanitarian actors and scholars.

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