It was way back in the 1970s (I was 2 years old at the time, of course), and it was a newspaper article about the week I spent eating fantastic foods while visiting relatives in Sicily.
The Washington Star graciously published it (and I suspect my atrocious first attempt at writing contributed to the demise of the Star a few years later).I still love to travel (41 countries and counting). There are many things I do not like about travel, however:
- Jet lag
- Tummy trouble
- Child sex tourism
You can guess which one this blog post is about.
This is about organized tours that you can book on the internet so you can fly to a another country—or another city in the US, like Atlanta—and pay a few dollars to repeatedly rape a little girl (or boy).
Why would anyone want to do that? How's this for justification:
"On this trip, I've had sex with a 14-year-old girl in Mexico and a 15-year-old in Colombia. I'm helping them financially. If they don't have sex with me, they may not have enough food. If someone has a problem with me doing this, let UNICEF feed them."
--Retired U.S. school teacher (via US Department of Justice)
This Monday, January 11, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. (Actually all of January has been set aside in the US as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.)
Since I love to travel, I’m commemorating the day and month by writing about the not-so-nice side of travel: child sex tourism.
- More than one million children worldwide are drawn into the sex trade each year. (ECPAT)
- They service 10-40 customers a night.
- Some are just 4 years old.
"Some Americans take advantage of prostituted children while traveling to impoverished countries for business, tourism and other legitimate reasons. Others travel abroad specifically for a 'sex tour.'Under federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2423), it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to travel abroad intending to engage in sexual activity with a child younger than 18 that would be illegal if it occurred in the U.S. Individuals who commit these crimes are subject to prosecution in the U.S. even if the crime was committed on foreign soil. (National Center for Mission and Exploited Children)
"Sex tourists travel to countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil, expecting anonymity, low-cost prostitution, easily accessible children and impunity from prosecution.
"Notably, it is estimated that one-third of the prostitutes in Cambodia are children.
The United States has laws that prohibit sex with minors in other countries and has greatly increased government efforts to combat this problem. Under the Protect Act of 2003, United States citizens or residents who engage in sexual activity abroad with a child under 18 can face 30 years in a U.S. prison. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now actively investigating American sex tourists abroad and making arrests.
"Sexually exploited children are severely wounded physically and emotionally. Many acquire diseases such as HIV and AIDS, and almost all experience rejection by their families and communities in addition to fear, shame and despair."
You don’t have to fly around the world to find child sex tourism. It happens in the US, probably in your city. The documentary Playground reports on this horror in Atlanta. (Warning: graphic content.)
Traveling? Here's what you can do about it:
- Whatever your profession or interest, here’s a comprehensive list of what you can do: www.endslaverynow.com (hat tip blogger Emily Bain Murphy at Season of Light).
- Call or e-mail your representative to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (HR 2737).
- Report an American sex tourist if you have information regarding someone who has sexually exploited a child. E-mail the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Operation Predator: operation.predator@DHS.gov
- If you’re planning an international trip, look up your destinations in the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report and learn about the child sex tourism industry there.
- See where your destination country ranks in the fight to stop child trafficking.
- Take free anti-trafficking brochures, posters, info cards with you (available in many languages).
- Watch US Immigration and Customs Enforcement awareness videos.
- Learn what to ask if you think someone is trafficked.
- Carry a copy of Global hotlines to report child trafficking in other countries.
- In the US, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to report a trafficking victim: (888) 373-7888.
- Thecode.org: What the tourism industry is doing to stop child trafficking
- Fact sheet about child sex tourism (ECPAT)
- U.S. law on child sex tourism (World Vision)
- Information about the Protect Act (World Vision)
- Young Person’s Guide to Combating Child Sex Tourism (ECPAT)
- Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project (World Vision)
- How India is cracking down on the tourism industry for promoting child sex tourism
- Google “human trafficking awareness day.” There are more than 1.5 million entries listing events, resources, and stories.
- Google “how to stop child sex tourism.”
- Google “what hotels are doing to stop child sex tourism.”
- Google "Olympics child trafficking."
- Google "World Cup child trafficking."
Travel blogger Pam Mandel (@nerdseyeview) has a great post on BlogHer about her own experiences in Cambodia seeing the horrors of child sex tourism all too up-close-and-personal. I'd love to see more travel writers cover this not-so-nice side of travel. (If you do, leave a link in the comments.)
Thanks for reading this extra-long post.