When going on vacation most people think of family fun in the sun, or traveling to far off destinations to gain new experiences with family or friends. This is not always the case when someone has a fetish such as wanting to have sex with underage individuals. There is a harsh truth out there that there are some people who only think of their fetishes when going on vacation to countries such as Thailand, India, and the Philippines. These countries are known by some fetish communities for their underground involvement in the sex tourism industry. This paper will cover a brief description, statistics of the issue, and analysis of the sex tourism industry with a focus on the child sex trade.
Sex sells in American society, sexual images are used to market everything from cars to beer. Even commercials aimed toward women (such as those selling cleaning products) portray an attractive woman happy to be working in an acceptable “woman’s role” with her husband happily watching in the background. Medication used to treat sexual dysfunction in men are also advertised on television showing older married couples happily going through their day with a voice over explain to the viewer that pills can now treat sexual dysfunction and that being sexual is a normal fact of life. Prime time television features more intelligent women in power positions than ever before, but these women are still attractive and dress in a manner that would be considered inappropriate in any real life workplace, there is also a sexual tension between the single female star and her male costar. Even with women in power positions there is still the underlying message that no matter how intelligent or powerful a women may become she is still and always will be a sexual object to a man (or men). In a strange contradiction to this message, in the Judeo-Christian American society, parents try to shield their children from Sex (and overtly sexual messages on television) as a society, American’s like to pretend that sex does not exist outside the bedroom and children are not being exposed to inappropriate sexual material at a young age.
This strange contradiction between overly sexual and puritanical views on acceptable sexual behavior has affected societies view on sexual assault and rape. A “good girl” would never allow herself to be put in a situation where she could possibly be victimized, only a “bad girl” a girl that a respectable man would never marry are the only ones that are ever victimized because they asked for it. This distortated view of sexual assault and rape also plays a role in the topic of this analysis research paper.
American citizens are partaking in something known as sex tourism (or child sex tourism when the perpetrator is seeking sexual contact with an underage prostitute). Law are in place to protect American children from victimization at the hands of adults, controversy is raging over the legality of civil commitment of sexual offenders after they have completed their sentence in state run correctional facilities. Individuals convicted of a sexual crime are required to be placed on sex offender registries so that families living in the community with the offender will know that he or she was convicted of a sex crime. While all of this is wonderful and protects American children from sexual victimization almost nothing exists to protect children living abroad from victimization at the hands of American sex tourists.
In the Judeo-Christistian society the problem of child sex tourism is almost completely ignored due to the fact that the majority of these actions are occurring outside of America. If the problem is not seen it can be easily ignored.
What is Child Sex Tourism?
“Child sex tourism is the practice of traveling from one’s home country to another country to engage in sexual activity with children enslaved in the commercial sex industry.” (Adler, Mueller, & Laufer, 2010, p 357) Some of the prime child sex tourist destinations include Thailand, India, and the Philippines with Mexico and Central American becoming more popular as destinations. Children that are victims of sex tourism do not generally make the conscious choice to become involved in the sex industry. Many of these children are being trafficked from their Home Counties or home villages to locations that are popular with the sex tourist. Nothing in life occurs in a vacuum and sex tourism is no different, child sex tourism is also intimately related to another criminal activity that is also a gross violation of human rights that of human trafficking. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime defines human trafficking as follows, “Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transfering, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”(what-is-human-trafficking, n.d., United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) One of the ways that trafficked individuals are exploited is through being forced into the commercial sex industry. “According to UNICEF 1.2 million children are trafficked annually, and 2 million children are forced into the commercial sex industry.”(Adler, Mueller, & Laufer, 2010, p 356) As much as American society would like to pretend that sex tourism is an underground activity that is only perpetrated by a small number of individuals across the world, that just is not the case, sex tourism is a billion dollar business and “According to recent reports, Americans comprise an estimated 25% of all sex tourists. Yet 38% of sex tourists in Cambodia and 80% of sex tourists in Costa Rica are American. (Song, n.d., Children as Tourist Attraction) While the practice of sex tourism is an underground behavior (after all a pedophile travelling abroad to have sex with a child prostitute is not going to advertise this behavior to friends and neighbors) this underground behavior also has an underground network of supporters with internet chartrooms and message boards used to spread information about travel deals and travel agents that are involved only in booking vacations for those interested in sex tourism. Sex tourists even have their own name they call themselves mongers the International Sex Guide is “the internet site that is the world’s largest forum for mongers.”(Skinner, 2008, p 175) While this behavior may be underground, there is a large well connected network for mongers and those that support the behavior.
The problem with enforcement of legislation that deals with the dual crimes of human trafficking and sex tourism is the fact that these crimes fall into a category known as transnational crimes “criminal activities, transactions or schemes that violate the laws of more than one country or have a direct impact on a foreign country.”(Adler, Mueller, & Laufer, 2010, p 366) Human trafficking and sex tourism are a violation of basic human rights; as such any enforcement procedures require a partnership between destination countries (for individuals being trafficked and the countries of residence of sex tourists. Strict enforcement in one country with lack of enforcement of regulations in any other will only have limited success in the prevention of human trafficking and sex tourism. The first piece of American legislation enacted to prevent human trafficking and sex tourism was the Trafficking Victims Protection Act(TVPA) “of 2000 prohibits trafficking by making it illegal to recruit, entice or obtain a person to engage in commercial sex acts or to benefit from such activities.”(Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, & Taylor, 2009, p 370) The TVPA was reauthorized in 2003 and allowed for $200 to be used toward human trafficking prevention. “In 2005 the act was again reauthorized, this time making special commitment to aid child victims of human trafficking. The 2005 version also required that recommendations be made for the prevention of human trafficking in post conflict areas or in regions affected by humanitarian crises.”(Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, & Taylor, 2009, p 370) While any steps taken to eradicate the practice of human trafficking and sex tourism are steps in the right direction, legislation that is limited to areas on conflict misses a large part of the issue. Many of the countries known as hot spots for human trafficking and/or sex tourism are not post conflict areas they are areas known for poverty. Countries in Central American are known as prime sex tourist destinations, Mexico for example is not a post conflict country, it is however a poor country, individuals residing there are willing to sell everything and anything to “rich” American Tourists in an attempt to make money to survive. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which was formed in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and include “Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.”(Aronowitz, 2009, p 85) again these countries have been stricken with abject poverty after the fall of the Soviet Union and are willing to sell anything that is of value. The most valuable commodity in these areas is women and children that are being sold into the commercial sex industry. Another piece of American legislation that is meant to end the practice of sex tourism is the “Protect Act, enacted in 2003 allows law enforcement officers to prosecute Americans who travel abroad and sexually abuse children, without having to prove prior intent to commit an illicit crime.”(Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, & Taylor, 2009, p 695) Also Chapters 18 sections 23 and 24 of the U.S. Code “prohibit traveling across state lines or into the United States for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct and furthermore prohibit an American Citizen or national from engaging in illicit sexual conduct outside the United States. (Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, & Taylor, 2009, p 374). The Department of Homeland Security is also doing its part in attempting to end the practice of human trafficking and sex tourism with Operation Predator an “initiative to combat child exploitation, child pornography and child sex tourism.”(Swanson, Chamelin, Territo, & Taylor, 2009, p 374) While the American government should be applauded for its attempts to end the practice, most of this legislation is similar to a paper tiger. They are being used as a political tool to make the American government look good (like it’s actually doing something to end the practice).
This research report began with the statement that sex sells; sex with children sells even more. The practice of sex with children is nothing new to society. Because sexual behavior with children has never been an accepted practice in American society, those seeking to engage in such behavior has always been part of an underground group. With advanced in modern technology is has become easier for those seeking to engage in the practice to meet and interact with each other (through email, chartrooms, and message boards). An organization known as Perverted Justice is attempting to stop the practice of adult men seeking to meet underage girls in chartrooms and social networking sites (such as Face book). Predators are aware of these organizations and the potential danger in speaking to someone from outside their community these only services to drive the practice even more underground. Those seeking to engage in sexual behavior with children are no longer seeking out American children, they are now willing to travel abroad to engage in sexual activity with child prostitutes. Legislation is now in place to prosecute those seeking to travel abroad for the purposes of sex tourism. While any step toward ending the practice is a step in the right direction. However, prostitution still exists in America, no attempt it made to determine if the female involved has chosen to voluntarily engage in the sex industry, she is treated like a criminal. This same principle applies to the child sex tourist. This practice is the dirty little secret of criminal justice. While the practice does exist and certain members of the law enforcement community are aware of it and attempting to end the practice the issue has turned into something of an out of site out of mind sort of situation. Mongers are traveling abroad and victimizing foreign children, not American children, because American children are not being victimized, the practice is not that bad.
Any attempt to end the practice needs to be multinational in nature. Instead of independent states, countries or governments enacting independent legislation laws need to be enacted in conjunction with other governments through international organizations such as the United Nations. Instead of individuals convicted of sex tourism or human trafficking being tried in the country where they were arrested these individuals should be tried in an international court (similar to war crimes or crimes against humanity trials).
Also, religion continues to play an important part in societal views on behavior, religious organizations claim to engage in humanitarian aid. Therefore larger religious organizations should be doing their part to end the practice of human trafficking. These religious organizations should be doing more to raise awareness of the issue and working in the areas known for human trafficking and destination countries for those that have been trafficked. Adult women forced into the commercial sex industry feel that after they have been freed from their captors (and no longer forced to work in the sex industry) decide to return to the industry because they have no other job skills. This situation will be worse for the child forced into the sex industry simply due to the fact that these children have received no education and have no one to truly care for them. Religious organizations would be able to offer individuals freed from sexual slavery skills training and offer education to children.
Globalization has had several high points, the world has become a smaller place thanks to telecommunications business opportunities have increased across the world thanks to American industry sending business aboard, and it has become easier to communicate with individuals all over the world thanks to the internet and social networking sites. As many positives that have been created thanks to globalization, there are also several down sides. One of the darker sides of globalization in the increase in transnational crime. Until human trafficking is viewed as a human rights crime and nations begin to work together to end the practice, the sad but true fact is that it will continue to thrive. Criminal Justice professionals can no longer look at criminal activity as simply an American problem or a Canadian problem. In the 21st century criminal activity needs to be viewed as a global problem.
Adler, F., Mueller, G. O., & Laufer, W. S. (2010). Criminology (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Aronowitz, A. A. (2009). Human trafficking, human misery: the global trade in human beings. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Swanson, C. R., Chamelin, N. C., Territo, L., & Taylor, R. W. (2009). Criminal investigation (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Skinner, E. B. (2008). A crime so monstrous: face-to-face with modern-day slavery. New York: Free Press.
Song, S. (n.d.). Children as Tourist Attraction. Youth Advocate Program International Resource Paper. Retrieved April 21, 2011, from www.yapi.org/rpchildsextourism.pdf
what-is-human-trafficking. (n.d.). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human- trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html