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Sex Tourism of Children

Sex tourism is defined as traveling to a foreign country with the intent to engage in sexual activity with others. Sex tourism of children would therefore be defined as traveling to a foreign country with the intent to engage in sexual activity with a child younger than the age of 18. It is against the law for any citizen of the United States to travel to another country to engage in sexual activity with any child younger than the age of 18.1 Individuals who partake in this illegal activity are subject to prosecution in the United States even if they committed the crime on foreign soil.

While much of the initial international attention on sex tourism of children focused on Thailand and other countries of Southeast Asia, there is no hemisphere, continent, or region unaffected by this trade. As countries develop their economies and tourism industries, this form of tourism seems to surface.

Economic difficulties, civil unrest, poverty, and displacement of refugees all contribute to the growth of this industry.2 The United Nations International Children's Educational Fund (UNICEF) released a report in 1997 estimating more than 1 million children, overwhelmingly female, are forced into prostitution every year, the majority in Asia.3 

End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), however, also reports increasing evidence of children being exploited in former Eastern Bloc countries. Reports of children entering prostitution, being exploited by foreigners and aid workers, and trafficked to Western European brothels are coming from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, and Russia.4


To many governments around the world, international tourism can be the answer to economic growth and development. Tourism also brings consumerism to many parts of the world formerly denied access to luxury commodities and services. Growing consumerism and the commodification of sexuality may also be contributing to an increase in sex tourism of children.5

Why Does It Occur?

Children will continue to be victimized by these sexual predators for many reasons including

• Anonymity

• Availability

• Affordability

• Lack of child-protection laws in foreign countries

• Low risk of detection

Role of the Internet

Unfortunately there are still numerous small travel companies throughout the world that promote sex tourism of children by identifying resorts where prostitution is widespread. Because these companies are so small, they rarely draw attention from law enforcement.6

In addition the advent of the Internet has revolutionized the growth of the sex-tourism-of-children industry. Some Internet chatrooms, message boards, and online organizations not only encourage this form of tourism, but give detailed instructions about how to partake in it.7

The various areas of the Internet allow offenders to communicate with others who have already traveled to another country for this purpose. From the comfort of their own homes, they can plan their vacation and purchase their tickets with relative anonymity.


Although it is nearly impossible to provide accurate statistics about the number of children involved in prostitution, the examples below provide an overview of the problem8

Cambodia: As of 1995 one survey found minors from 13 to 17 years of age comprised about 31 percent of sex workers.9

China: As of 1994 the Peking People's Daily reported more than 10,000 women and children were abducted and sold each year in Sichaun alone.10

Costa Rica: The capital city of San Jose is home to more than 2,000 child prostitutes. Across the country, children are regularly sold to foreign pedophiles as part of sex-tour "packages."11

India: In 1995, 20 percent of Bombay's brothel population was composed of girls who were younger than 18, at least half of whom were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive.12

Sri Lanka: 100,000 children between the ages of 6 and 14 are kept in brothels and an additional 5,000 children between 10 and 18 are working in tourist areas.13

Taiwan: Estimates indicate the number of children in the sex industry to be around 100,000.14

End Notes
118 U.S.C. 2423b. 
2Eva J. Klain. Prostitution of Children and Child-Sex Tourism: An Analysis of Domestic and International Responses. Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1999, page 33 [hereinafter Analysis of Responses]. 
3Charlotte Bunch. The Intolerable Status Quo: Violence Against Women and Girls, 1997, visited April 12, 2003, http://www.unicef.org/pon97/women1.htm. 
4Analysis of Responses, supra note 2, page 35. 
5Id., page 36. 
6Id., page 42. 
7Id., page 37. 
8Id., page 33. 
9Id., page 33, citing End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), Country Reports, last modified Aug. 21, 1996 http://www.rb.se/ecpat/country.htm (quoting Vitit Muntarbhorn, Washington, 1995) [hereinafter Country Reports]. 
10Id., page 33, citing Country Reports, supra note 9. 
11Id., page 34, citing Dorianne Beyer, "Child Prostitution in Latin America" in Forced Labor: The Prostitution of Children. Jaffee and Rosen, eds., U.S. Department of Labor, 1996, page 39 [hereinafter Forced Labor]. 
12Id., page 34, citing Forced Labor, supra note 11, page 39; Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality. New York: New York University Press, 1995, page 173; and Douglas Hodgson, Sex Tourism and Child Prostitution in Asia: Legal Responses and Strategies, 19 Melb. U. L. Rev., 1994, pages 512, 515 [hereinafter Sex Tourism]. 
13Id., page 34, citing Country Reports, supra note 9; and Sex Tourism, supra note 12, page 514. 
14Id., page 34, citing Country Reports, supra note 9.


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Online Enticement of Children for Sexual Acts

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