Child Protection in Holiday Destinations

Sexual violence is an injury to the body and soul. The pandemic has worsened the poverty in many  countries, lots of which are our favorite travel destinations. Now, where people can visit again, the  children living there are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of sexual exploitation. As an  Austrian, you can also contribute to child protection in these countries. When traveling, sensitivity  and vigilance are required to identify and report suspicious situations. 


What makes children so vulnerable? They are dependent on an environment that protects them,  primarily on the family, but also on the government of the country in which they grow up. Poverty is  the main risk factor for children and young people to be sexually exploited. For example, countries  where the income disparities between travelers and locals are great, are especially at risk of being  the destination of child sex tourists. The absence of education and vocational training is also a big  problem. 


Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic situation of many families has worsened, and with it the  living conditions of many children. Poverty is pushing children and young people back into child  labor. In June 2021 there were 160 million children registered, who have to work. According to the  children’s rights organization ECPAT, 79 million of them have to do dangerous work. Then there are  the unreported cases. Many of these children, who have nothing and are left to their own devices,  end up in prostitution. The UNICEF speaks of several million children who are forced to sell their  bodies. 


It does exist, child sex tourism, and one must not turn a blind eye to it. In 2018, ECPAT together with  the Federal Criminal Police Office published an informational video on the subject. In it, it is  explained how perpetrators operate and where suspected cases can be reported. The aim of the  video is to sensitize all travelers, but also everyone who works in tourism.  

Of course, it always makes sense to contact the local police. However, there are often language  barriers and other obstacles. Another option is to report the suspicious situation on www.nicht Even when one isn’t sure, if there really is a criminal offense, one should do it when in  doubt. If the observed scenario is clearly a crime, it is best to contact the Federal Criminal Police  Office and the local law enforcement officers directly.


This year as well, ECPAT launched a campaign in cooperation with other children’s aid organizations  just in time for the main travel season. The hashtag GemeinsamfürKinderschutzis intended to  draw attention to the dangers for children in poorer holiday destinations. Because of the effects of  the pandemic tour operators and vacationers need to be reminded of child protection right now.  

It is important to know, that perpetrators are punishable everywhere. The Austrian criminal law also  applies to the sexual abuse of children carried out abroad. 


Unfortunately, in many countries, children take to the streets. In most cases it applies: the poorer  the country, the more children are sexually exploited. These are the countries with the highest  number of (known) cases of child prostitution: 

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka is notorious for its high rate of child labor on its plantations and child trafficking. The  number of crimes against children in Sri Lanka rose 64% in 2012 compared to the previous year,  according to a UNICEF report. Due to the increase in tourism, there are more and more children who  are sexually exploited. 


Unsurprisingly Thailand is also on the list. In 2004 there were 800 000 child prostitutes in the holiday  country beloved by Austrians. Sex tourism is a big problem in Thailand and affects also thousands of  male minors. 


In Brazil, there are half a million underage sex workers, according to the “National Forum for the  Prevention of Child Labour”. Poverty and unemployment are very high in Brazil, so sometimes the  parents themselves are the ones bringing their children into prostitution out of desperation. 


When booking holiday residences, you should make sure that you choose travel companies that  have signed the “Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation During  Travel and Tourism”. When one notices a suspicious scenario, one should under no circumstances  look away. It is important to keep your eyes open everywhere, on the beach, in the hotel lobby, and  in bars. Inappropriate touch is an obvious indicator. Subtle gestures such as stroking hands or hair  should also be observed. Due to the anonymity perpetrators often feel safer in the holiday  destination to act out their tendencies. In addition, their money is worth more there and they can  virtually buy anything. As mentioned above, travelers can report suspicious situations to ECPAT via  the Nicht-Wegsehen website at any time or directly to the police. According to experts, the advice of  outsiders is of great importance because the victims rarely confide in anyone. 

Translated by: Liliána Gamble