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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004





ECPAT International

(End Child Prostitution and Trafficking),

Bangkok, Thailand


Thank you for the opportunity to speak about ECPAT International and the work ECPAT International does. ECPAT’s Executive Director, Carmen Madrinan, gives her apologies for not being able to attend and sends her best wishes to you all.

I am going to speak about the different responses to child sex tourism, namely from the tourism industry itself. As you have already heard from my colleagues here, the issue is a grave one and it is very important to examine what solutions have been developed to combat it so that they may be replicated in different contexts and countries.

There are a variety of measures used to fight CST, but I am going to outline only five of the main ones here. They are: 1) Raising awareness among travelers; 2) Empowering travel and tourism companies; 3) Improved and enforced legislation; 4) Better destination marketing; 5) Implementing comprehensive programming. 

Raising awareness of travelers is important as it allows tourists to spot and report instances of exploitation as well as feel comfortable in taking action against it. Furthermore, travelers can make more informed decisions about where they go and what services they consume, if they are informed via awareness materials. Such materials can come in the shape of informational leaflets, in-flight videos, TV spots, stickers, luggage tags and others. 

In addition to raising awareness among travelers, it is essential that travel and tourism companies be equipped to combat child sex tourism. NGOs such as ECPAT International can empower these companies by providing them with research on the issue, training on how to handle instances of exploitation, and giving them information materials. Companies can also sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct, which is a set of six criteria to be committed to and implemented by the company in question. Implementation of these six criteria effectively repudiates CST. Also important in this is the support of national tourism authorities – it is essential that companies be given the signal that it is not only okay but encouraged to take an active stance against sexual exploitation of children in tourism.

All these efforts must be backed up by relevant legislation as well as its enforcement. This comes in three forms: 1) the development of industry legislation (Ex: Italian legislation requires tour operators to provide information on the issue of CST to travellers); 2) Improved domestic legislation (Ex: The Gambia - Tourism Offences Act) to prosecute local and foreign offenders at home; 3) The development of extraterritorial law for prosecuting offences committed abroad by one’s own nationals. Law and law enforcement are essential to successfully fight child sex tourism. There is no point in elaborating industry measures if offenders are completely free to exploit children. 

Also important to fighting child sex tourism is how a country markets itself. A country with a persistent image of lax law enforcement, a happy go-lucky sex industry and an indifference to the plight of children is bound to draw the wrong kind of tourists. Thus, destination marketing is important – a country can change its image by aggressively promoting family and child friendly tourism as well as that country’s vigilance in terms of tourism-related crime.

Equally, if not more important, is the creation of the legal and social wherewithal to effectively tackle CST/CSEC, and a successful example of this is the plan in Thailand. The legal reforms initiated in 1996 as well as comprehensive socio-economic empowerment strategies (extending the age of mandatory education and employment programmes for adults) resulted in a significant reduction of CST and CSEC in Thailand. Unfortunately this has not been the case in the entire region and similar efforts are required in countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam.

I hope this brief presentation clarifies some of the solutions that have been used in the past to fight child sex tourism. Again, as my colleagues have already pointed out, the impact on children is enormous and we can not tolerate the continued exploitation of children in the tourism industry.