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.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS POVERTY
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.
THE PANDEMIC HAS INCREASED POVERTY
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.
DON’T LOOK AWAY!
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 gesehen.at. 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.
CURRENT CHILD PROTECTION CAMPAIGNS
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 “GemeinsamfürKinderschutz” is 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.
EYES OPEN IN THESE COUNTRIES
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 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.
HOW CAN EVERYONE CONTRIBUTE TO CHILD PROTECTION?
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.