ECPAT releases latest country overview on Georgia

ECPAT International has released its latest country overview, of the scale, scope and context of sexual exploitation of children in Georgia. The report gives an overview of the sexual exploitation of children online, through prostitution, within early and forced marriage and by human traffickers as well as key findings on the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism and current trends for the tourism industry.

In 2017 Georgia received 4,069,354 tourists visits, up 23.4% from the year before, with most visitors arriving from Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Armenia, Iran, Ukraine and Israel.  However despite this significant increase the report highlights that official data on the prevalence and trends on SECTT is lacking. Georgia is a destination for tourists predominantly from Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Armenia, Iran, Ukraine and Israel. At the same time as tourism increases, the protracted conflict between Georgia and Russia over the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, is increasingly putting children at risk.

“The estimated 65,000 children who remain internally displaced from conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as children living and/or working in the streets and children from socially marginalized groups are among the most vulnerable to sexual exploitation.”

As children become increasingly displaced and without appropriate protection they are increasingly vulnerable to travelling child sex offenders who might offer them a rood over their head or some food.

Victims of Azerbaijani descent are often subjected to prostitution in tourist areas like the Adjara region and its resort city Batumi. Gonio is another popular destination for foreign visitors, where many nightclubs and bars cater to them exclusively.”

The report finds that despite growing tourism an increasing risk of SECTT, that the issue remains significantly under-reported. There is no single legal framework that can adequately address SECTT and it is found that neither the Criminal Code for the Law on the Protection of Minors from Bad Influence explicitly define or include SECTT, neither does the Law on Tourism and Resorts.

Recommendations

The report recommends shifting priorities towards enhancing detection and reporting mechanisms as well as data collection on the prevalence of all forms of sexual exploitation of children as well as specifically SECTT. Without data, national efforts to address the child rights violations will fall flat.

With limited legal support, leadership will need to come from the tourism and travel industry itself. In line with the Global Study recommendations for the travel and tourism industry, there are a number of steps companies can take including making a commitment to child protection through becoming a member of The Code.

Currently there are only eight companies in Georgia that have signed up to become a member of The Code. As the report finds, the, majority of hotels have no current child protection policy. There is great opportunity and potential for these hotels to partner with The Code to offer a starting point for beginning to create due diligence within their business operations and implement the 6 criteria of The Code, including developing a child protection policy, training staff and raise awareness amongst travellers.

Read the full report here.