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Forms of violence: **Sex tourism**

12/03/2011  | Child Rights International Network



What is child sex tourism?

According to ECPAT International, there are two types of sexual exploitation of under-18s in relation to tourism: the minority are sex tourists with a specific interest in pre-pubescent children (paedophiles); while the majority are ordinary tourists who take advantage of the sexual services of children, mostly aged in their mid- or upper teens, who are made available to them.

The organisation says that, “Child sex tourists take advantage of their anonymity as well as the socio-economic disparities in the locations they visit. They may try to rationalise their actions by claiming sex with a child is culturally acceptable or that money or goods exchanged benefit the child and community, or by setting their own thresholds for defining who is a child.”

The UN Study on Violence Against Children (UNVC, 2006: 314) notes how the Internet has changed the dynamics of the industry. It states that, “The methods of organising child sex tourism have changed over time. Whereas it was initially more common for tourists to make contact through a brothel or in a well known area of such activity, in recent years the Internet has been used – transforming and multiplying the risks for exploitation of children through tourism.”

What can be done about it?

According to Article 10 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, State Parties must: 

"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."

Companies can sign up to the Code of Conduct to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. In so doing, they commit themselves to the follow:

  1. To establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children
  2. To train the personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations
  3. To introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children
  4. To provide information to travellers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc
  5. To provide information to local ‘key persons’ at the destinations.
  6. To report annually

For information on signing up to the Code of Contuct, click here.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child draws attention to the issue of sexual tourism in its Concluding Observations to States. For example, in its recommendations to the United States regarding the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, the Committee urged the State to “continue to strengthen its measures to combat sex tourism, including by raising awareness to tackle attitudes, such as the idea that is acceptable to abuse and exploit children living in poverty in foreign countries."  

Measures taken by States may include promoting responsible tourism through awareness campaigns specifically directed at tourists, and working together with travel operators, media, NGOs and civil society organisations to combat sex tourism

For more resources on children and sex tourism, click here


Recommended reading

A series of global conferences have been organised to address the sexual exploitation of children, including child sex tourism. Read about the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, which took place in Brazil in November 2008.

Read about the campaign for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the CRC

Read about the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.



UN Study on Violence Against Children (2006). Accessible at: