Summer is often a time when we take trips that we have eagerly anticipated all year. Tourism offers amazing experiences of play, learning and relaxation. But the tourism industry also involves a sinister reality—the sexual exploitation of children. As you prepare for your trip, you might want to consider how you can support child safe tourism.
For many developing countries, tourism is an important way to grow the economy and provide jobs for adults and children. Some jobs that children do are relatively safe, such as selling souvenirs on the streets or working in tourist attractions or hotels, and children are able to continue going to school while working. But other work falls into the realm of “3D” jobs: dirty, dangerous, and degrading. These jobs take children out of school and make them vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Even “safe” jobs like selling souvenirs and legitimate services to travelers can bring children into risky contact with people who may use them sexually.
Sexual exploitation has long-lasting and devastating consequences for children. It harms their bodies, minds, and spirits, causing pain, fear and despair. Children can end up with unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases, or become addicted to drugs. They are often rejected by their families or stigmatized in their communities.
As tourists we can protect children by demanding tour operators, hotels and restaurants don’t turn a blind eye when children are at risk. By knowing the laws and how to report suspected abuse overseas, Canadians can help, just as they would if they suspected the sexual abuse of a child here at home.
Canada and travelling child sex offenders
In 1997 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended so travelling child sex offenders can be prosecuted in Canada for crimes committed abroad.
Sexual exploitation of children by tourists has two sides which fuel this gross violation of children’s rights: the supply side and the demand side. Canadians who purchase sex from children—boys and girls under the age of 18—are fueling this problem by contributing to the demand for sex with children.
With the full support of World Vision and other anti-trafficking organizations, Canada passed Bill C-268 in June 2010 and in June 2012 Bill C-310, which improve Canada’s abililty to address the abuse of children by travelling sex offenders. These Bills impose minimum sentences for child traffickers and allows for Canadian prosecution of trafficking crimes, such as child exploitation, that have been committed abroad.
What You can Do:
- Take responsibility for the impact of your own travel by researching hotels and travel companies to ensure they have policies or adhere to codes that protect children.
- Give to local charities that can work to end the issues that cause children to be on the streets begging and selling, rather than giving directly to people who may not even profit from it.
- Report the exploitation of children—labour, sexual or trafficking— you witness while abroad using cybertip.ca.
- Deter any travel companions from engaging in exploitive behaviour. Don’t encourage touching, or taking children out alone.
- Learn about the impact of this type exploitation through the story of Mao.
- You might want to visit the International Bureau of Children’s Rights Facebook page to learn more about their initiative “Eyes on Patrol”.
By Cheryl Hotchkiss – Advocacy Campaigns Manager