Tourism boosts the economy of the host community and country, but too often this becomes the sole focus of tourism’s benefits, forgetting its socio-cultural impact. Tourism is not the cause of child sex tourism, but it has been established that children (below 18 years old) in tourism destinations are highly vulnerable to abuse, exposed as they are to traveling sex offenders, local exploiters, and pimps. Lower airfare and the Internet have made not just trade and travel easier, but the commercial sexual exploitation of children as well.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is the use of children for sexual gratification by adults for remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third party. It includes child prostitution, pornography, and child trafficking for sexual purposes. With child sex tourism (CST), tourists usually from richer countries travel to poorer countries to engage with children in sexual activities. Those who do this are called “preferential sex offenders,” including paedophiles who prefer pre-pubescent children. More in number are “situational sex offenders,” or those who don’t differentiate between sexually engaging with an adult and with a minor.
Factors that encourage sex offenders are anonymity, being away from the moral and social constraints at home, availability of children, the belief that sex with children isn’t illegal in the country of destination, presence of local child exploiters (pimps), the traveler’s feeling of superiority, and the belief that with money in exchange for sex with a child, he/she is actually “helping” local children and their families.
ECPAT, a global network of organizations dedicated to ending CSEC, works with the tourism industry through the Child Protection Code, an industry-driven code on how to address the sexual exploitation of minors in a concrete, visible way.
ECPAT in Boracay Island
ECPAT conducts capacity building seminars for owners, managers, supervisors, and staff. Commercial establishments benefitted from these, along with the PNP-Boracay, the Aklan Provincial Government, Boracay Foundation, Inc., media persons, schools, and communities.
ECPAT promotes reporting of cases and assists LGUs in passing legislation for child protection. When ECPAT started in Boracay, there was denial of the sexual exploitation situation of children among local officials and tourism professionals. There was a general apprehension to approach guests with a companion. Though ECPAT conducts seminars on how to handle potential abuse situations, these measures are not enough. Establishments must come up with their own child protection policies, to be made stronger with the passage of local legislation.
Fortunately today, the problem is openly talked about and everyone is eager to find solutions. Minors are not anymore as visible at night on the beach. A group formed by the municipal government, the Malay Tourism Regulatory Task Force, with law enforcement and the municipal social welfare agency, actively calls the attention of travelers with minors and interviews them. Now there’s a 24/7 child protection unit with an assigned social worker. The Boracay Land Transportation Multi-purpose Cooperative and the Boracay Security Agencies Organization support the placement of anti-CSEC/CST stickers on all tricycles, vans, and multicabs. There are individuals calling for the reactivation of the Bantay Bata Boracay. Still, there’s a need for more involvement among local stakeholders (especially SMEs) and the local government responsible for regulating tourism development.
- For more about the Child Protection Code, visit www.thecode.org.
- Contact ECPAT Philippines / Ms. Dolores Alforte
143 Anonas Extension, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, Philippines 1101
Telephone : +63 2 920 8151 | Fax : +63 2 441 5108