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Member spotlight: MAIS-ECPAT (Dominican Republic)

Posted on Jun 27, 2021

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—On June 1st, two men were detained when coming into a hotel accompanied by seven boys. The hotel staff denounced them to the tourist police, as the Interinstitutional Commission had trained them to identify and report cases related to child sexual exploitation. 

This is a successful story of an interinstitutional collaboration between the private sector, law enforcement and a civil society organization (our member in the Dominican Republic, MAIS-ECPAT), making headlines in national news. You can watch the news coverage here. 

For this month’s ECPAT member spotlight, we hear from our member in the Dominican Republic, Movimiento Para el Autodesarrollo Internacional de la Solidaridad (MAIS), or MAIS-ECPAT. They tell us about how they’ve helped build strong Child Protection in the travel and tourism sector in the Dominican Republic, including their most outstanding success, and ongoing challenges. 

PREVENTING THE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN IN TRAVEL AND TOURISM 

The interinstitutional Commission against Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Travels and Tourism (CIENAVYT, as per the acronym in Spanish) was created to react as swift as possible against any suspected or clear case of child sexual exploitation. Four stakeholders constitute it: the private sector, represented by the Association of Hotels in the North Area (and member of The Code), the tourist police (CESTUR), the judicial system and MAIS-ECPAT, as a civil society organization in charge of organizing the trainings and conducting capacity buildings on SECTT prevention. 

As mentioned, the role of MAIS-ECPAT is to organize capacity building sessions and train hotel collaborators, tourist companies and hotels in the detection and report of suspected or clear cases of sexual exploitation of children. For the latter, the trainings have been conducted to the staff members, specifically to those who have direct contact with visitors and tourists, such as receptionists or room service. Once reported, the tourist police will take action and look into the given case. 

The trainings explore not only the causes and consequences of the SECTT but also the identification of conducts, behaviours, intentions and signs that are linked to SEC-related cases. 

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS AND ONGOING CHALLENGES 

Our most outstanding achievement was to raise awareness and generate a greater understanding that the sexual exploitation of children happens at any level in society, especially in the tourist sector. These crimes have dramatic effects on children’s lives and harm the improvement and development of a sustainable tourist industry. 

For many years, the tourist industry has not reported this type of crimes, as there were fears of repercussions towards the sector. Hence, the current engagement from different relevant actors in the industry has been our second most remarkable achievement. In fact, more than 35.000 people have been trained as of today, including tour operators, taxi drivers, hotels staff, etc., from 75 different areas in the travel industry. 

Acknowledged and valued by the local authorities of the Ministry of Education, the work of MAIS-ECPAT has been focused in the last 20 years on advocating on the rights of the Children, always trying to empower parents and tutors, as well as schools and children themselves, in the prevention of child sexual exploitation and abuse. This process aimed to improve the levels of awareness in order to achieve greater child empowerment and more engagement from adults as responsible for the safety and well-being of children. 

Our biggest challenges have been overcoming adverse reactions and responses against involving children in sexual activities by tourists and travelers and training children to understand their legitimate rights and empower them. We have encouraged them to demand the fulfilment of their rights and engage in activities to request so. 

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