I’m working on an assignment for my Master course in Responsible Tourism Management nowadays which entails reading papers about (child) sex tourism. Yes, indeed, it’s gloomy. The more I read, the more I understand how huge of an issue this is… And I can only imagine the little we know about what is really going on if the information to be found about it is a small percentage of the reality.. It makes me sick, and today it led me to investigate more about ECPAT International, the world’s leading organisation working for the protection of children from sexual exploitation.
Did you know that as many as 1.8 million children are exploited in prostitution or pornography worldwide and human trafficking alone as an illegal industry generates billions of US dollars? It is believed that nearly 80% of all trafficking worldwide is for sexual exploitation, with over 20% of the victims children.
I guess you would agree to the statement that all children have the right to live free from all forms of sexual exploitation. However, social tolerance to the sexual exploitation of children is increasing. For instance there are millions of child sexual abuse images on the Internet, and that number is growing.
ECPAT International works to build collaboration among local organisations and the broader child rights community to form a global social movement for protection of children from sexual exploitation. Its membership reflects the richness and diversity of experience, knowledge and perspectives that arise from working in widely different contexts. ECPAT groups are involved in implementation of various initiatives to protect children at local levels, while the Secretariat provides technical support, research and information. It also represents and advocates on key issues at the international and regional level on behalf of the network.
As stated on their website, ECPAT works towards the end of commercial sexual exploitation of children in four main ways:
END CHILD PROSTITUTION: Child Prostitution occurs when someone benefits from a commercial transaction in which a child is made available for sexual purposes. Children are also involved in prostitution when they engage in sex in return for basic needs such as food, shelter or safety, or pocket money to purchase consumer goods. A child cannot consent to being prostituted and in all instances, abusers are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the child for their own gratification. ECPAT works towards the end of child prostitution.
END TRAFFICKING OF CHILDREN FOR SEXUAL PURPOSES: The trafficking of children for sexual purposes refers to the cross-border or internal, recruitment, transportation, harbouring, transfer or receipt of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This crime happens in every country in the world and affects children from walks of life . ECPAT works to stop child sex trafficking.
END CHILD PORNOGRAPHY: Child pornography means any representation of a child engaged in real or simulated sexual activities or any representation of a child for primarily sexual purposes. Since the rise of the Internet, the sheer scale of child pornography online has become overwhelming. ECPAT wants to eliminate child pornography and the exploitation of children online.
END CHILD SEX TOURISM: Child sex tourism occurs when an individual travels, either within their own country or internationally, and engages in sexual acts with a child. Some offenders engage in sexual acts with children out of experimentation often fuelled by opportunity or a feeling of anonymity as a result of being away from their home. ECPAT wants to eradicate the practice of child sex tourism.
What can YOU do?
Don’t turn your back on children! The commercial sexual exploitation of children happens everywhere and if you suspect a child is being sexually exploited, online, through tourism or in your own community call the police or local authorities. If you are planning a vacation or travelling for business consider booking with a hotel or tour company who has signed the Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.
If you need to report a potential case of child sexual exploitation and you do not know where to turn please see ECPAT’s contact page for information on how to report.
You can become a member of, fund raise for or donate to ECPAT, in order to support their work, and learn a lot more about this crucial issue of concern. Learn how to do so here.