By Anastasia Moloney
BOGOTA, Oct 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police in the Dominican Republic have rescued dozens of women from forced sex work in bars and nightclubs across the Caribbean island in its biggest anti-trafficking operation this year, authorities said on Tuesday.
The 49 women from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela were freed in simultaneous raids in the provinces of La Romana, a coastal tourist area, and in western San Juan, according to the attorney general's office.
The investigation into the "powerful" international trafficking ring that recruited and transported victims began last year, the office said.
During the raids, 10 suspected traffickers were arrested, and four businesses closed down, it said. It did not specify when the raids took place.
The Dominican Republic is known as a hot spot for sex tourism, including child sexual exploitation, driven by a demand from foreign tourists and locals.
The country has been trying to shake the reputation by stepping up its crackdown on traffickers.
In the past three years, more than 400 victims of mainly sex and labor trafficking have been rescued in the Dominican Republic, and 33 convictions for human trafficking have been handed down, according to latest official figures.
Under the country's anti-human trafficking law, convicted traffickers can receive prison sentences of up to 20 years.
The Dominican Republic has been on the U.S. Department of State's Tier 2 list since 2012, meaning that it does not fully comply with minimum standards to combat trafficking.
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.