Child Sex Tourism Fight Continues

The International Federation of Women's Travel Organizations continues its commitment to the global campaign to protect children from sexual exploitation. An update on this campaign was the subject of an educational session at the recent IFWTO Convention in Bangkok. IFWTO Standing Committee Director –Task Force Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism, Cynthia Messer, chaired the panel of three speakers. Previous to this, at the Pacific Regional meeting, Patricia Green, founder of Rahab Ministries, spoke about her organization’s work in providing young prostitutes, in Patpong and Pattaya, with opportunities for education, vocational training and alternative employment.

Cynthia Messer outlined recent developments and included outcomes from the 2nd World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Yokohama last December. She also provided a summary of what the Federation and its members have done since IFWTO became involved in this campaign seven years ago.

Two speakers from ECPAT, Tourism Coordinator Sendrine Fabie and Chris Beddoe from Australia, spoke about ECPAT’S work and activities which now involves 55 countries. Areas discussed included research, guidelines for National Tourist Associations, education modules for high school students and tourism schools and colleges, the Child Wise Tourism training program, awareness campaigns for travellers, the development of a Code of Conduct and the new decal logo – Protect Children from Sexual Expoitation in Tourism(which replaces NO Child Sex Tourism).

Both speakers stated that child sex tourism exists all over the world and the tourism industry is not to blame but the tourism industry does have a responsibility as there are many more opportunistic offenders than pedophiles.

Mrs Aroonsi Sattrani, Head of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Training and Technology Division, spoke about the increasing number of visitors to Thailand and the problems involved in managing the increase in numbers, the possible deterioration of the destination and the social problems such as prostitution. The current ratio of male to female visitors is 60:40. In an effort to change this ratio, TAT have instigated a number of promotional campaigns to promote Thailand as a family destination and also as a good destination for female visitors. This resulted in a 19% increase of housewives last year. Last July in Bangkok, a Regional Consultation on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Tourism, was organized by TAT in conjunction with the World Tourist Organization.

Guest speaker, New Zealander, Patricia Green from Rahab Ministries, gave the participants at the IFWTO Pacific Region meeting a moving account of the work her organization does in providing alternatives to women and children working in prostitution. Located in Patpong, Bangkok’s red-light district, her small Christian organization provides practical help, emotional support and opportunities for education, vocational training and alternative employment.

The centre operates a beauty shop, which provides training and alternative work; a greeting cards business to generate income and counselling services and teaching on practical matters such as safe sex, health, nutritiion, STDs, AIDs, child care and budgeting. Sponsoring a girl for training or education costs about US$75 a month.

Travel journalist, Imtiaz Muqbil, reminded those present that there was a great need to fight the underlying problem of abject poverty that provides the supply of children, who end up with no rights and no life.