Child sex tourism as we can clearly understand from the term refers to people with tourist status who perpetrate sexual exploitation of small children. These tourists can be domestic or international travelers. According to an estimate, the figure for international tourists will be about 1.8 billion by 2030, and with that, the risk of sexual abuse of children is likely to increase.
Children from extremely poor families in many of the developing countries are becoming victim of this sex trade that generates twenty billion dollars every year and only stern measures to curb such sex tourism can stop this sex trade from growing further.
Child sex tourists
There is a misconception that these people are pedophiles while actually most of them are situational sex tourists. On the other hand, pedophiles are people suffering from clinical disorder where the person has sexual inclination towards children aged twelve or less and who are pre-pubescent.
Situational sex tourists are people who do it as experimentation, knowing that they are protected by their anonymity in the foreign country. These people do not have any specific inclination towards children and engage with sex partners of different age groups.
These child sex tourists contact the children using different means ranging from contacting them on beaches, hotels, brothels, clubs, through their agents or online using various web portals. In many countries, child marriages are quite common and utilizing this fact, families arrange marriage of their girls with foreign tourists for the duration that the tourist stays in the country.
Effect on children
Those children who survive the exploitation go through life long trauma, which negatively affects their mental, physical as well as emotional state. Such children become prone to HIV infection, girls suffer unwanted pregnancies and their overall health suffers.
The psychological trauma means the kids find it quite difficult to re-integrate themselves into the society and many of them turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to negate their negative mental state.
Combating child sex tourism
To combat sex tourism it is important to remove any legal protection that these sex tourists may have. Offenders should be punishable for such crimes while abroad and national laws should provide extra jurisdiction if such offenses are not covered under the local laws.
Around thirty-eight countries have formed extraterritorial laws that permit nationals of their country involved in sexual abuse of children, while in another country as tourist, be held up and prosecuted. Law enforcement agencies have now started using help of local NGOs and undercover agents to get information about child sex offenders. Many times law enforcers also distribute information in case a sex offender is traveling to another country so that the person can be tracked to know if he is looking to sexually abuse children.
Recently a joint effort has been made named, “the code” by WTO or World Tourism Organization, UNICEF and ECPAT-USA that works to stop child prostitution. The main efforts are to develop tourism industry that is more responsible as well as alert about abuse against children. Organizations joining this group are committed to identifying and report abusers and around fifty companies have already joined.
In the US, a new law has been passed known as Protect Act that makes it illegal for people in US to sexually abuse a child while being in another country as tourist. If convicted, such a person can be sentenced to imprisonment of thirty years. Such type of strong laws is going to works as deterrent for abusers.
Child sex abuse is a very serious issue and only joint action by public authorities, common people and non-profit organizations can help to stop child sex tourism. Spreading awareness about it among tourists and warning them about severe punishments can become effective deterrents and help to reduce this problem.