Child Sex Tourism
CST is defined as the commercial sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another, usually from a richer country to one that is less developed, and there engage in sexual acts with children, defined as anyone aged under 18.
Child sex tourism takes various forms, but generally it is about adult men who, in the course of travelling away from home, pay in cash or kind for sex with children. While some women engage in such violations, they represent less than 5% of sexual offenders.
Child sex tourists may not have a specific preference for children as sexual partners but take advantage of a situation in which children are made available to them for sexual exploitation. It is often the case that these people have travelled from a wealthier country (or a richer town or region within a country) to a less-developed destination, where poorer economic conditions, favourable exchange rates for the traveller and relative anonymity are key factors conditioning their behaviour and sex tourism. The visitors’ demand for sex then fuels the further provision of children for exploitation. It should be noted that sex tourists are not just holiday-makers but also others whose occupations take them to destinations away from home, such as business people, transport industry workers and military personnel. Similarly, sex exploiters are not necessarily foreigners as one can be away from home within one’s own country. Nevertheless, it is the transnational character of child sex tourism that has served to highlight the issue. This globalised cycle is also crucially interlinked with the trafficking of women and children and the pornography industry.
Travellers may rationalise their sexual exploitation of children by adopting an assumption that sex with a child is culturally acceptable in the place that they are visiting. This assumption may be lent weight where law enforcement authorities fail to punish crimes against children or where it is known that legal action may be offset through bribery. While prostitution of children may be illegal, a blind eye often seems to be turned to such offences when foreigners and the wealthy are involved. In this sense, the economic benefits derived from tourism often override a national government’s commitment to prosecute and punish all crimes against children through national laws and international instruments that ensure the protection of children against sex exploiters in tourism.
While the definition of child sex tourism has been continuously refined, building on greater understanding of its scope and manifestations, the fundamental protection of children against commercial sexual exploitation is addressed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), specifically in Articles 34, 35, 36 and 19. The CRC commits signatories to ensuring that children are protected from sexual exploitation and abuse, including prostitution and pornography. Article 34 recognises the cross-border aspects of the sexual exploitation of children, as is often the case in child sex tourism, by requiring governments to take action through national, bilateral and multilateral measures. Article 35 calls for similar action with regard to the abduction, sale and trafficking of children, which is linked to the global child sex industry.
The CRC position on child sex tourism is strengthened by the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which expresses explicit concern about child sex tourism. Article 10 commits signatories to: “… take all necessary steps to strengthen international cooperation by multilateral, regional and bilateral arrangements for the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of those responsible for acts involving the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and child sex tourism. States Parties shall also promote international cooperation and coordination between their authorities, national and international non-governmental organisations and international organisations.” In addition, there is the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which supplements the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and further protects children from trafficking for sexual and other purposes.