Only 56% of assessed tour operators in Italy comply with their legal obligation to include an explicit warning against the sexual exploitation of children

ECO Italy ECPAT International

ECPAT International has released its latest country overview report on the manifestations of sexual exploitation of children in Italy. Particular groups including Roma and Traveller children are amongst those at the highest risk for exploitation through trafficking and prostitution due to their low economic status and stigmatization.

Italy is a well-known and popular tourist destination attracting millions of visitors per year which is also increasing in its number of international departures. In 2017 Italian travelers went on 64.5 million trips abroad, a 4.1% increase from the previous year. As travel and tourism grows, adequate child protection measures are quickly outgrown, including a lack of reporting mechanisms and standardized data collection systems.

The report also highlights the increasing role of social media and internet access in child sexual exploitation in Italy with a growing number of children, particularly those exploited through prostitution, having been first groomed online. Social media is increasingly being used to directly communicate with children in vulnerable situations including those living on the street. In these cases, poverty and social stigma is a driving force. According to ECPAT Italia, in many cases offenders present themselves as ‘benefactors’, allegedly wanting to support the families of their victims.

The report finds no clear official estimates available for the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, while traditionally Italy is seen as a country of origin for offenders with cases being reported in the media. A previous report by ECPAT International and ANPPCAN (2015) found that in Kenya, Italians were among the top nationalities reported among travelling child sex offenders.

Tour operators in Italy organising trips abroad are required by law to include a statement against the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism in all their marketing and communications materials and travel documentation. However, according to the 2018 report from the Bilateral National Authority of Tourism (Ente Bilaterale Nazionale Turismo) on the application of the law on ‘provisions against the exploitation of prostitution, pornography, and sexual tourism to the detriment of children’, only 59% of assessed tour operators complied with their legal obligation to include an explicit warning against the sexual exploitation of children in their marketing and travel services documentation.

As for international child protection commitments, only one travel and tourism company based in Italy (Four Seasons Natura e Cultura by Gaia 900) and fifteen international companies with operations in the country are currently members of The Code. These travel and tourism companies make a commitment to ending the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism by implementing the six criteria of The Code, including training staff on how to report cases of sexual exploitation of children and to annual reporting against progress in their implementation.

Read the full report here.