Violent gangs operating in El Salvador are forcing children and women into sexual and other forms of slavery, a UN special rapporteur on the issue said on Friday.
Urmila Bhoola, a South African human rights lawyer appointed by the UN to look into contemporary slavery, said the gangs are forcing girls, teenagers and women to act as unpaid domestic servants and "participate in sexual activities," including in some cases conducting conjugal visits with imprisoned gang members.
Bhoola, who is wrapping up a 10-day visit to the country on Friday, said in a statement that El Salvador's government is obliged to take steps to end those practices and provide victims access to justice and compensation.
The activities the victims are forced to carry out "are both a cause and consequence of poverty, social exclusion, internal and external displacement of communities, as well as crime," she said.
Gangs often use minors to carry out extortion or as lookouts to warn about police or rival outfits, the Salvadoran authorities say.