BBC: “Should the travel industry do more to help stamp out child sex tourism?”
The BBC’s Fast Track (a travel news show) recently interviewed ECPAT International to discuss the problem of child sex tourism in Thailand and around the world. You can watch the full programme on-line here.
Child sex tourism is the sexual exploitation of children by a person or persons who travel from their home district, or country to have sexual contact with children. Travelling sex offenders can be preferential or situational abusers (e.g. those who intentionally seek sexual contact with children, or those who do not usually have a sexual preference for children but take advantage of a situation in which a child is made available to them). Child sex tourists can be domestic travellers or they can be international tourists. Child sex tourism involves the exchange of cash, clothes, food or some other form of consideration to a child or to a third party for sexual contact. It occurs in multiple venues, from brothels in red-light districts to beaches or five-star hotels and in urban, rural or coastal settings.
Committing their crimes overseas, bur rarely facing punishment at home: stopping sex tourists
Since 2009, the number of international tourist arrivals globally has increased by almost 100 million to 980 million in 2011 (UNWTO). When this is combined with the opening up to tourism of new destinations where economic return is the sole parameter taken into consideration, the vulnerable elements of society can be severely affected. In Thailand, tourism is a major source of income, accounting for 6-7% of GDP and bringing approximately 14 million visitors per year. Furthermore, some recent years have seen around 144 million domestic travellers within Thailand.
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, and while Thai laws on child prostitution are fairly comprehensive, it is reported that child prostitution is still widespread and that law enforcement remains weak. Under the Thai Penal Code offenders can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison for crimes associated with child sex tourism.
For more information on the situation in Thailand, read our Country Monitoring Report – Executive Summary.
The travel and tourism industry plays an important role in stopping child sex tourism, through awareness, education and reporting. One of the biggest challenges however is fear from some travel and tourism businesses that tourists will be deterred or offended by the industry profiling the issue of child sex tourism within their services. To counter this, ECPAT International works with its partner organisation The Code, an industry-led initiative to heighten responsibility in combating child sex tourism. The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code) works with all manner of tourism businesses from tour operators, hotels and airlines that adopt and sign The Code committing themselves to informing their customers on their child protection policy, training staff on how to identify and report instances of child sex tourism, reporting cases of exploitation and the application of other measures to protect children. By promoting responsibility within travel and tourism we can end child sex tourism.
The Code is an example of ECPAT International’s multi-sector, collaborative approach to protecting all children from commercial sexual exploitation. For more information on child sex tourism, why not read – Combating Child Sex Tourism: Questions & Answers.