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Poverty and Exclusion Promote Sex Tourism: Global Study

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Sex offenders offer cash and consumer goods to children in exchange for sex. For the most impoverished, this is a means of survival
Sex offenders offer cash and consumer goods to children in exchange for sex. For the most impoverished, this is a means of survival.

QCOSTARICA – A two-year Global Study initiated by ECPAT International published last Thursday (May 12, 2016) reveals that more children are being sexually exploited than ever before and that this is an endemic phenomenon throughout the world.

The study, the first of its kind and marking the 20th anniversary of the First World Congress against commercial sexual exploitation of children, noted that poverty and exclusion favour this crime in countries in Latin America, like Costa Rica.

The report entitled “Global Study on Child Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” indicates that the response of governments in the region have been insufficient given the growing exploitation produced by national and international tourist flows.

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One of the advisers to the study was Milena Grillo, director of the Paniamor Foundation in Costa Rica.

Speaking to the AP news agency, Grillo said one of the problems faced was the collection of statistics of the underground activity that exists. According to Grillo, experts on the issue agree that the problem is growing.

The document states that, in Costa Rica, as in other countries in Latin America, poverty and exclusion of developing tourist areas promotes sex tourism.

The study in Costa Rica found that recently developed tourist zones do not appreciably increase income for the poor.  Instead, they often displace families living from traditional means (farming, fishing, etc) leaving them with few alternatives other than menial work in the tourism sector.

[su_note note_color=”#f8f8f6″]From the report. Income inequality: Sex offenders offer cash and consumer goods to children in exchange for sex. For the most impoverished, this is a means of survival; but even those with more resources sometimes engage in commercial sex to obtain, for example, cell phones or other “luxury” items.[/su_note]

“… Research indicates that countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have increased efforts to promote tourism on a broad scale and sex tourism has grown proportionately.  Research found that in Guanacaste despite the growth of the tourism sector, 31.6% of the population lives in poverty and 11.5% in extreme poverty, with an unemployment rate of 8.97%.”

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The report stresses that children are the most vulnerable in this situation and is even more dangerous for migrants in transit through these countries.

“… Many countries in America, where tourism has experienced substantial government support, have proven to be fertile areas for growth of sex tourism …” says the report.

For Latin America, a  region that is geographically, politically, economically, socially, racially, ethnically and culturally diverse.fourteen countries were researched for the full report, based mainly on the availability of information relevant to the Global Study: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

In a press release, the ECPAT says the study reveals that:

  • There  is  no  typical  offender,  they  are  tourists,  business  travelers,  migrant  &  transie nt workers, expats or civil society volunteers;
  • Travelling child sex offenders are usually from the region or country where the offense takes
  • The  internet  and  mobile  technology  have  fueled  the  increase  in  SECTT  by  creating  new pathways for exploitation and reinforcing anonymity of offenders;
  • Most  child  sex  offenders  did  not  plan  the  crime,  they  commit  because  there  is  an
    opportunity and they feel they can get away with it;
  • No  child  is  immune  and  victims  are  not  only  poor.  Some  are  more  vulnerable  than  others,  such as the marginalized including minorities, street children, and LGBT;
  • Services for victims remain inadequate;
  • Enforcement  and  prosecution  of  offenders  is  hindered  by  a  lack  of  coordination  and information sharing between authorities; and
  • There  are  alarmingly  low  conviction  rates  for  the  sexual  exploitation  of  children,  which means the majority of offenders evade justice.
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The ECPAT report states that in Latin America the incidence of Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT) is very high, particularly in tourist areas near poor and excluded communities.

Tourist arrivals in Latin America have quadrupled since 1980, with three fourths of the travelers coming from the United States and Canada.

The report continues to say that the United States and Canada are source countries for offenders,  who travel to other regions  in order to sexually exploit children.  However, child sex trafficking in business ravel, major events, conferences, oil fields, transport hubs, etc. have made the United States and Canada destination  countries.

Europe  is  also  viewed  as  a  source  for offenders  with SECTT  increasing,  primarily  in Central and Eastern Europe. The  Global  Study reveals  the  extent  of  SECTT,  outlining  itsglobal nature,  whatmotivates it, the evolving trends and concrete recommendations for action, including a call for better ongoing data collection andmore research in to the issue.

The Global Study was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through ECPAT-Defence for Children in the Netherlands.

The Global Study involved 70+ contributors from the public and private sectors.

Click here to download (or read online) the full report.

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