UNICEF launches travel agents' code to help combat child sex tourism
With reports indicating that a quarter of international sex tourists are American, and that the number of children being exploited worldwide estimated at 2 million and growing, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today launched a code-of-conduct for the North American travel industry.
The code requires travel agencies to train staff in countries where children are exploited; provide information about the issue to travellers; explicitly repudiate the sexual exploitation of children in any contracts with local suppliers; develop ethical corporate policies; and report annually on the issue.
Marking the launch, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the travel industry is an essential segment of the battle against the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
UNICEF estimates that two million children - mostly girls - are victims of the worldwide commercial sex trade, with as many as a third of Cambodian prostitutes under the age of majority.
"We can no longer look the other way while members of our own communities are abusing children in the most unthinkable ways," Ms. Bellamy said. "These are perpetrators of the worst kind. They not only display a callous disregard for human dignity, they do so with total impunity."
Business Week magazine reported in 1995 that the United States is host to 25 sex tour companies, and in February a New York-based agency was closed and its owners indicted - the first time this has happened in the US - after allegations emerged that the agency had organized overseas vacations where girls were available for sex.
The advocacy group ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) has said that an estimated 25 per cent of sex tourists outside the US are American.
UNICEF said many countries are also passing laws to make it illegal to travel internationally to have sex with children.