2019 Trafficking in Persons Report addresses the role of governments to end the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism

The recently published 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report calls upon all governments to acknowledge human trafficking not only across borders but within borders of a country. It stresses that “governments may find it easier to blame sex trafficking on those who come to their countries to engage in foreign sex tourism than to address local demand”.

Yet, the Global Study on Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism research emphasized that nowadays child sex offenders are predominantly domestic and inter-regional, and this crime is also not only committed by international travellers.

The sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism (SECTT) is the preferred and accurate terminology instead of the broadly used term “child sex tourism”, as it emphasizes that the sexual exploitation of a children is a crime, and that acts of sexual exploitation occur within a specific context.

Similarly, the term travelling child sex offender is recommended to be used to refer to adults who have committed sex-based crimes against children in the context of travel and tourism, rather than “child sex tourists” as the term may wrongly give the idea that is it a legitimate or acceptable form of tourism.

SECTT encompasses a broad spectrum of sexual exploitation of children including in prostitution and pornography, for the production of online child abuse material and in the sale and trafficking of children in all its forms. A range of different travel and tourism trends put children at risk of exploitation such as voluntourism, orphanage tourism or mega events.

The definition emphasizes that offenders are not only tourists, but also business travellers, military personnel, expatriates, volunteers, teachers, NGOs workers or pseudo-caregivers. It does not focus solely on foreign offenders, but includes local and regional travellers and tourists. SECTT and the crime of human trafficking can overlap, but it can also occur without the child having been trafficked for commercial gains.

The TIP report rankings and narratives reflect an assessment of several elements of efforts by 187 governments to meet minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, including “governmental efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and international sex tourism”.

Recurring challenges in ending SECTT included in the TIP Report are:
  • NGOs and experts continued to express concern about child sex tourism, but governments did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions or reported very few
  • Lack of undercover investigative authority to anti-trafficking police units, except in rare cases when requested for child sex tourism raids conducted alongside foreign law enforcement agencies, constraints law enforcement officers’ ability to address the crime
  • Concerns over the governments failure to impose appropriate punishments on foreign nationals who purchase commercial sex acts with children
  • Increasing number of engagement in child sex tourism facilitated through social media contact
  • Child sex tourists are increasingly hosted in private residences outside the commercial tourist areas, making the crime harder to detect
  • NGOs reported some owners of exploitative child institutions, including fake orphanages
  • “Temporary marriages” continue to be used for the purpose of sexually exploiting children
  • Children affected by natural disasters are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation
  • Some governments do not acknowledge the crime or are reluctant to implement large-scale awareness campaigns due to the negative impact they believe it would have on the tourism industry
  • No efforts or insufficient efforts are being taken by governments to reduce the demand for child sex tourism
Several good practice examples have been reported in the TIP report:
  • In Argentina, legislation was passed to strengthen the monitoring of hotel guests who travel with minors who are not their children
  • The Australian government cancelled or denied passports to registered child sex offenders
  • In Austria, the government supported distribution of publications and television programming on trafficking and child sex tourism
  • Belize government cooperated with the United States to deny entry to convicted sex offenders
  • Cabo Verde continued to implement the National Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse and Violence, which includes child sex tourism
  • In Chile, the National Tourism Service continued its certification of tourism organizations and establishments that adhere to norms for the prevention of child sex trafficking
  • Colombian government made some efforts to prevent child sex trafficking, including signing a memorandum of understanding among relevant government agencies in Cartagena to address the pervasive problem with child sex trafficking in the tourism sector
  • In Costa Rica, the government raised awareness of child sex tourism, integrated the international Code of Conduct related to sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industry into its national tourism program, and provided training in tourist zones
  • In Dominican Republic, the government increased efforts to identify and combat child sex trafficking, including child sex tourism
  • In Egypt, government reported that it began to develop a strategy to stop forged marriage contracts in order to reduce the incidents of “summer marriages” of girls by foreign tourists for the purpose of sexual exploitation
  • The Gambia Tourism Board raised awareness in schools on child sex tourism
  • Guatemala reactivated the National Working Group for the Prevention and Protection of Children and Adolescents against Sexual Exploitation in Activities Related to Travel and Tourism; trained members of the national taxi association and ran prevention campaigns on sex tourism targeting students, visitors to hospitals, activists, airport security officials, tourist police, businesses, tourism operators and travelers
  • Guinea Bissau encouraged hotels to combat sex tourism, trained various hotel owners and managers on child sex trafficking and building the capacity of tourism inspectors
  • Honduras registered 238 companies in its national tourism registry and each company signed a code of conduct for the protection of children against commercial sexual exploitation
  • In Japan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly passed an ordinance in prohibiting girls younger than 18 from working in compensated dating and requiring such businesses to register their employee rosters with the city
  • In Kenya, the Sexual Offenses Act criminalizes the facilitation of child sex tourism and the government reported working only with travel and tourism companies that were part of the Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism
  • In Laos, an article was added to the penal code criminalizing the travel from one country or place to another to engage in child sex tourism
  • In Latvia, the government amended law on tourism to require the licensing of tourism operators to reduce the risks of child sex tourism and increase controls over safe tourism
  • The government of Luxembourg supported NGOs to conduct local awareness campaigns focused on the prevention of child sex tourism
  • In Madagascar the Ministry of Tourism focused on monitoring the commitment tourism operators that acceded to the Tourism Code of Conduct against Child Sexual Exploitation
  • In Maldives, the Ministry of Tourism partnered with an international organization to conduct “child safe tourism” campaigns for guesthouse operators and resort managers
  • In Mexico, the Secretary of Tourism, together with civil society, implemented a program to prevent trafficking and sex tourism, which included a “code of conduct” for travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, tourist guides, training centers, and transportation providers, training for students pursuing careers in this sector and the distribution of awareness materials to prevent trafficking and reduce the demand for commercial sex acts from children in tourism destinations
  • The Netherlands national rapporteur increased monitoring and evaluation of trafficking and law enforcement increased efforts to fight child sex tourism. Authorities trained immigration, hotel, aviation, customs, and labor inspection in methods to identify victims and child sex tourism. A government-funded NGO maintained victim assistance hotline during extended hours
  • In Nicaragua, the government reported more than 6,000 businesses had subscribed to an agreement with the Ministry of Tourism to monitor and report suspected child sexual exploitation in the industry
  • The Panamanian Commission against Sexual Exploitation Crimes expanded its campaign against the sexual exploitation of children to high school and university students and private and public sector professionals capable of identifying and referring potential victims
  • In Paraguay, the government launched public awareness campaigns targeting tourists to prevent child sex tourism in high-risk areas
  • In Philippines the government stopped 199 foreign registered sex offenders from entering the country and the government increased its efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts
  • In Portugal, multidisciplinary teams operated a hotline available in several languages that received over 800 calls relating to victim assistance
  • In Sri Lanka, the government continued awareness campaigns, including on child sex tourism
  • Thai government coordinated with foreign governments to deny entry to known sex offenders, and produced and displayed a video discouraging child sex tourism in Thai airports and on Thai airline flight
  • USA continued to proactively investigate allegations of child sex tourism offenses perpetrated overseas by U.S. citizens and partnered with foreign law enforcement counterparts to share information regarding international travel of registered child sex offenders
Prioritized recommendations for the governments in 2019 TIP report related to SECTT include to:
  • Strengthen efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict child sex tourists
  • Increase collaboration with foreign governments on cases of trafficking and child sex tourism
  • Facilitate coordination between travel agencies to discourage child sex tourism
  • Train law enforcement officials at the national and local level to improve their ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials and child sex tourists
  • Develop and implement programs aimed at increasing awareness of the harmful impact of online child sexual exploitation and child sex tourism
  • Increase efforts to combat child sex trafficking in the tourism sector

The Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism provides more specific recommendations for the governments. Read the recommendations here.

Read the Terminology Guidelines from the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse here.