ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Child sex tourism is defined as an act that is a crime of sexual motivation by those who are traveling as tourists and choose to sexually exploit children. It is a type of child prostitution and, depending on the circumstance, human sex trafficking. There are clear links to sex tourism and the tourism industry; the tourism industry is being utilized to connect tourists for those seeking sex.
Sex tourism can occur domestically and internationally among sex tourism-seeking travelers. There are specific countries that tourists will visit in order to engage in child sex exploitation due to lenient law enforcement and an ample supply of vulnerable children. In some instances, it is a spontaneous act committed by the tourist due to opportunities that are presented to them.
Southeast Asia in particular has a high rate of sex tourism. Some of the most popular destinations are Thailand and Cambodia. Poverty is the pipeline that fuels child sex tourism, and there are links between severe economic crisis and the prevalence of child sex tourism.
Demand for sexual contact with children and a ready supply of vulnerable children due to poverty enables individuals to exploit others. Some children are sold and become part of highly organized criminal organizations. These organizations identify children that are vulnerable due to socioeconomic or other factors which allow them to be easily utilized as child prostitutes. Both females and males are targeted. These children generate massive profits, despite the meager amount charged for their services.
After having suffered deplorable living conditions, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse, survivors of child sex tourism are left traumatized. Furthermore, these children are at a much greater risk for STDs and HIV due to the lack of healthcare provided.
The trauma that the children, if ever rescued, face makes reintegration into society very difficult. Feelings of shame and worthlessness are often felt, and drug and alcohol use often become coping mechanisms.
Poverty has a large influence on child sex tourism. Often, sex tourism destinations are in countries in which high poverty rates exists. These same countries are facing political unrest and economic turmoil. Limited opportunities, education and financial incentives lead some families to allow their children to become victims. At times, coercion and the promise of jobs in other areas are used as methods to convince parents to send their children to go and seek work. These promises are made by human traffickers and are false; the children become forced into child prostitution for the sex tourism industry.
In instances where families knowingly sell their children, they may elect to prostitute them on their own in order to obtain money. Female victims are utilized more often because of the lack of opportunities due to their gender.
Efforts to end sex tourism have been difficult. Policies have been introduced to prosecute those who are caught having sex with children abroad. The Unites States government is determined to eradicate child sex tourism. But because child sex tourism is lucrative, especially in poor countries, and some countries choose not to legally intervene, children will continue to be victims unless greater efforts are made on behalf of the international community.
– Erika Wright