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Trafficking in Persons Report highlights trends in the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism—also named in ECPAT’s Global Study

Posted on Jul 14, 2020

Every year, the U.S. State Department compiles a global Trafficking in Persons report. The 2020 report emphasises trends ECPAT International has monitored since the launch of the Global Study on the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism:

  • Children are facing risks of sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism
  • There is both local and foreign demand to exploit children sexually
  • Child sex offenders often groom children online before meeting them
  • Children living in orphanages are at risk of exploitation. 

In our work to end the sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism, we’ve been advancing a comprehensive framework where businesses, organisations and governments are actively working together to protect children and end the impunity of offenders. The very centre of our work is children’s rights, always guiding our efforts to do more and better. 

One million+ tourism staff trained on how to spot a child in danger 

As part of these efforts, we also work in partnership with the travel and tourism industry by supporting them to take action to ensure children are safe. Today, the ECPAT hosted initiative The Code, has more than 370 member companies from the industry committed to this mission, for example by training staff members on how to spot signs of a child in danger. Up to this day, more than one million people have been trained. ECPAT also have global partners across the world, working on policy and legislation changes to protect children further. 

ECPAT’s Global Study and the Trafficking in Persons Report agree on trends

In 2016, ECPAT released a Global Study on sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism together with 60 partners. The study galvanised joint action and brought the issue to the attention of key decision-makers worldwide. The study was followed up by a call for action from the International Summit on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism in 2018. Now, we’re happy to see that this year’s Trafficking in Persons report is calling upon governments to step up and take action to bring an end to extraterritorial child sexual exploitation and abuse, by addressing the trends identified, some of which are:

  • Continuous demand from offenders that exploit children in the context of travel and tourism, online and offline.
  • Increasing vulnerability of rural, poor, indigenous children, refugee and migrant children that are particularly at risk of trafficking; including children left behind by families migrating abroad for work. 
  • Offenders’ misuse of the internet and social media to groom children for sexual purposes. 
  • Indications that private residences and hidden locations outside commercial tourist areas are being used to exploit children, making the crime harder to detect. 
  • Some tourism establishments such as hotels, resorts, guesthouses and private accommodation facilitate the sexual exploitation of children, also with the use of middlemen. 
  • Some orphanagesorganisations and charities purchase children from economically disadvantaged families to attract donations from tourist and volunteers while putting children at further risk of sexual exploitation. 
  • Lack of data sharing and input from relevant agencies that result in underreporting of cases. 
  • Lack of accountability for peacekeepers that are complicit in the sexual exploitation of children. 
  • Insufficient capacity of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute cases, including language barriers in cases involving foreign offenders. 

Protecting children from sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism requires commitment from everyone working in the sector, and from those who visit and enjoy tourist destinations. Offenders travel internationally, but also within their region and country, and can be found amongst business travellers, teachers, volunteers, aid workers and expatriates. The crime needs to be addressed now; it is particularly urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic has lead to increasing levels of poverty and inequality, which are making children more and more vulnerable. 

Trafficking in Persons TIP Report helps scale up impact

The Trafficking in Persons Report focusing on this issue will help maintain the momentum and scale up impact. To achieve the ambitious objective of ending trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, duty-bearers across governments and industries must cooperate.

Last but not least, the anti-trafficking community is moving away from using the term ‘child sex tourism’, but still, it’s used throughout the report. #WordsMatter and change start now. This is a severe crime; it is not another form of tourism.

ECPAT - resourcesTrafficking in Persons Report 2020 (TIP report)
Full list of Global Study recommendations
Legal checklist for governments to protect children
Declaration and call for action from the International summit in Bogota