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Here’s how to report child sexual abuse and exploitation when travelling—with help from the industry

Posted on Nov 4, 2019

Sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism is a worldwide phenomenon. The crime has been worsening since the 1990s due to the availability of cheap travel and development of new technologies. It can happen at hotels, on the street, at restaurants, tourist attractions or bars. An estimated 1.8 million children worldwide are victims, but not all witnesses report what they see.

At this year’s World Travel Market in London, ECPAT and the Regional Action Group of the Americas are pleased to announce the launch of the platform — previously only available in European countries — to include Latin America. We hope that this will help raise more awareness about the ways to prevent these crimes and help travellers report child sex abuse and exploitation in more parts of the world.

Sexual exploitation of children – a growing issue

Despite efforts by the industry to stop this crime, opportunities for traffickers and child sex offenders to commit crimes to expand alongside the industry. States have taken important steps to highlight this issue by building more child-friendly hotlines and reporting mechanisms. However, these methods need to be better known, more accessible and more widely used.

People do not know how to report child sex abuse and exploitation when travelling

A new survey conducted by the partners of the reporting platform, asked 1,081 people in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands about this issue. They found that most people are unaware of the signs of sexual exploitation of children and how to report because the crime doesn’t occur in plain sight, but in hidden spaces. The survey also found that:

  • 95% of travellers were familiar with the phenomenon;
  • 72% were unaware of the reporting websites;
  • 183 travellers witnessed possible signals of child sexual exploitation while they were travelling;
  • Travellers all together witnessed an estimated 250-300 child victims;
  • Only 4% reported their suspicions to authorities or a hotline;
  • 10% reported to the hotel, restaurant, travel guide or a tour operator; and
  • The majority of travellers discussed the suspicious situation with their travel companions, but did not make a report.

This is how you report – Don’t look away

The platform equips individuals with information on how to report suspicions of child sexual exploitation they may have encountered either at home or abroad. The website provides links to national hotlines and information on how to report in places where no reporting mechanism exists. The website was successfully used by over 20 European countries to report suspicions of child sexual abuse committed by travelling offenders. At the World Travel Market this week, the platform will expand to include Latin American countries.

“Reporting is the first step towards justice for victims, but because incidents are often not reported, sexual exploitation of children continues to be an under prosecuted crime. Reporting by bystanders, travelers, tourists as well as professionals from the industry, is key to protecting children.”

—Robbert van den Berg, Executive Director at ECPAT International

Travel and tourism industry takes a lead in ending trafficking and sexual exploitation of children

Earlier this year, the World Travel & Tourism Council established a global taskforce to help the travel and tourism industry prevent and combat human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Now, partners from the initiative are coming together to raise awareness about the issue to increase reporting through ECPAT International, Carlson, TUI GROUP, the Independent Expert Working Group on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism and the Regional Action Group of the Americas were all part of the project.

“To prevent the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism and to fight this crime at local level, we need to work on safe environments, socially responsible tourist destinations and protective networks. Technological advances should cease to be a threat and become an opportunity – the incorporation of the international reporting platform will enhance the work of each of the states, being a valid tool that add to the campaigns that are running in each country.”

—Jorge W. Morandeira, Secretariat Coordinator at the Regional Action Group of the Americas


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