Sex tourism

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A red light district in Thailand

Sex tourism is travel to engage in sexual activity, particularly with prostitutes. The World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, defines sex tourism as "trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination".[1]

Some people regard sexual activity while travelling as a way of enhancing their travel experience. However, social problems arise when particular countries or cities acquire a reputation as a destination or become attractive for sex tourism. Attractions for sex tourists can include lower costs for sexual services in the destination country, along with easier attitudes to prostitution and because prostitution is either legal or there is indifferent law enforcement, and access to child prostitution.


Generally, people who travel to engage in sexual activity with an adult prostitute are subject to prostitution laws of the destination country. When the sexual activity involves child prostitution, is non-consensual or involves sex trafficking, it is generally illegal, both in the participating country and sometimes in the individual's home country.

Sex tourism may be domestic, which involves travel within the same country, or trans-national, which involves travel across national borders. Sex tourism is a multibillion dollar industry that supports an international workforce estimated to number in the millions,[2] that also benefits service industries such as the airline, taxi, restaurant and hotel industries.[3]

Most sex tourism involves males and several countries have become preferred destinations for sex tourists. These include Brazil,[4][5][6][7] the Dominican Republic,[8] the Netherlands (particularly Amsterdam),[9] [10] Kenya,[11] Colombia, Thailand,[12] the Philippines, Cambodia, Cuba,[13] and Indonesia (particularly Bali).[14][15]

Though significantly smaller in numbers, female sex tourism also exists, with the main destinations for female sex tourism being Brazil, Southern Europe (predominately Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Spain), Turkey, the Caribbean (led by Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic), parts of Africa (Tunisia, Gambia, Kenya).[16] Other destinations include, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Fiji.[17]

Child sex tourism[edit]

Main article: Child sex tourism

Some people travel to engage in sex with child prostitutes in a practice called child sex tourism. While it is criminal in most countries, this multi-billion-dollar[18] industry is believed to involve as many as 2 million children around the world.[19]

"Child sex tourists may not have a specific preference for children as sexual partners but take advantage of a situation in which children are made available to them for sexual exploitation. It is often the case that these people have travelled from a wealthier country (or a richer town or region within a country) to a less-developed destination, where poorer economic conditions, favourable exchange rates for the traveller and relative anonymity are key factors conditioning their behaviour and sex tourism."[20]

In an effort to eradicate the practice, many countries have enacted laws to allow prosecution of their citizens for child abuse that occurs outside their home country, even if it is not against the law in the country where the child abuse took place, for example, the USA Protect Act.[21] The Code of Conduct for the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism is an international organization composed of members of the tourism industry and children's rights experts with the purpose to eradicate the practice of child sex tourism.

Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have been identified as countries where child sexual exploitation is prevalent.[clarification needed] Child sex tourism has been closely linked to poverty.[clarification needed]

In Thailand, though the exact numbers are not known, it has been estimated that children make up to 9% of prostitutes in the country.[citation needed] In India, the federal police say that around 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in prostitution.[22] Brazil is considered to have the worst child sex trafficking record, after Thailand.[23]

UNICEF notes that sexual activity is often seen as a private matter, making communities reluctant to act and intervene in cases of sexual exploitation.[24] These attitudes make children far more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Most exploitation of children takes place as a result of their absorption into the adult sex trade where they are exploited by local people and sex tourists.[24] The Internet provides an efficient global networking tool for individuals to share information on destinations and procurement.[24]

In cases involving children, the USA have relatively strict domestic laws that hold accountable any American citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. who travels abroad for the purpose of engaging in illicit conduct with a minor.[24] However, child pornography, sex tourism and human trafficking remain fast-growing industries.[24] Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, recently introduced H.R. 1623, the "International Megan's Law". Similar to the domestic Megan's Law, which provides for community notification when a sex offender is living in the area, H.R. 1623 would alert officials abroad when U.S. sex offenders intend to travel, and likewise encourage other countries to keep sex offender lists and to notify the U.S. when a known sex offender may be coming to the United States for sex tourism.[24]

Academic studies[edit]

University of Leicester sociologists studied this subject as part of a research project for the Economic and Social Research Council and End Child Prostitution and Trafficking campaign. The study included interviews with over 250 Caribbean sex tourists.[25][26] Amongst their findings were:

However, despite a great deal of interest in sexual tourism amongst theorists, methodologically thorough and detailed studies remain rare,[27] despite the increasing accessibility of such groups for study in the past three decades.[28][29]

Opposition to sex tourism[edit]

Some human rights organizations claim that sex tourism contributes to human trafficking and child prostitution.[30] The U.N. opposes sex tourism citing health, social and cultural consequences for both tourist home countries and destination countries, especially in situations exploiting gender, age, social and economic inequalities in sex tourism destination countries.[1][31][32]


Film makers have been active at reporting on sex tourism. Documentaries include:

Prostitution laws across the globe[edit]

  Prostitution legal and regulated
  Prostitution (the exchange of sex for money) legal, but organized activities such as brothels and pimping are illegal; prostitution is not regulated
  Prostitution illegal
  No data

Prostitution is also legal and regulated in New Zealand (map not shown).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "WTO Statement On The Prevention Of Organized Sex Tourism". "Adopted by the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization at its eleventh session - Cairo (Egypt), 17–22 October 1995 (Resolution A/RES/338 (XI))". Cairo (Egypt): World Tourism Organization. 17–22 October 1995. Retrieved 20 December 2006. [dead link]
  2. ^ Hannum, Ann Barger (2002). "Sex Tourism in Latin America". ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University) (Winter). Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "La explotación sexual de menores en Kenia alcanza una dimensión horrible" [The sexual exploitation of children in Kenya reaches a horrible dimension] (PDF) (in French). Spain: Unicef España. 17 January 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Brazil". The Protection Project. Archived from the original on 20 December 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2006. "Brazil is a major sex tourism destination. Foreigners come from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Latin America, and North America ..." 
  5. ^ Gentile, Carmen J. (2 January 2000). "Brazil cracks down on child prostitution". Washington Post foreign service (Washington Post foreign service). Archived from the original on 20 December 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2006. "... "an accelerated increase in child prostitution" in the country ... blamed largely on the unofficial promotion of sex tourism in Costa Rica over the Internet." 
  6. ^ "Costa Rica" (PDF). The Protection Project. Retrieved 20 December 2006. 
  7. ^ Zúñiga, Jesús. "Cuba: The Thailand of the Caribbean". The New West Indian. Retrieved 20 December 2006. 
  8. ^ "Dominican Republic". The Protection Project. Archived from the original on 20 December 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2006. "The Dominican Republic is one of the most popular sex tourism destinations in the world, and it is advertised on the Internet as a "single man's paradise."" 
  9. ^ Menon, Mandovi. "MensXP, Top 5 Sex Tourism Destinations". MensXP. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Scheeres, Julia (7 July 2001). "The Web, Where ‘Pimps’ Roam Free". Wired News. CondéNet. Retrieved 20 December 2006. 
  11. ^ Hughes, Dana. "Sun, Safaris and Sex Tourism in Kenya". Travel. ABC News. Retrieved 25 October 2008. "Tourists Gone Wild: 'They Come Here They Think "I Can Be Whatever I Want to Be" and That's How They Behave'" 
  12. ^ Cruey, Greg. "Thailand's Sex Industry". About: Asia For Visitors. About (the New York Times Co.). Retrieved 20 December 2006. "Nowhere else is it so open and prevalent. Individual cities or regions have acquired a reputation as sex tourist destinations. Many of these have notable red-light districts, including de Wallen in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Zona Norte in Tijuana, Mexico, Boy's Town in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket in Thailand," 
  13. ^ Taylor, Jacqueline. "Child Prostitution and Sex Tourism CUBA". Department of Sociology, University of Leicester, UK. ECPAT International. Retrieved September 1995. "In Cuba, the link between tourism and prostitution is perhaps more direct than in any other country which hosts sex tourists" 
  14. ^ Sex and Drug Parties in Bali?
  15. ^ Bali's 'Gigolos,' Carefree Sex Industry Lead to HIV Crisis
  16. ^ Clarke, Jeremy (25 November 2007). "Older white women join Kenya's sex tourists". Reuters. Retrieved 30 November 2007. "Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex." 
  17. ^ "Women going on sex tours look for big bamboos and Marlboro men". Translated by Maria Gousseva. Pravda.Ru. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid". United Nations General Assembly. 24 December 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2014. : "commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) ... It is estimated that CSEC is worth 20 billion USD a year, according to ECPAT. Child abuse images were estimated being worth $3 billion annually in 2006. In 2009, they were estimated to be worth around $20 billion, showing thus a very worrying escalation."
  19. ^ Janet Bagnall (2007). "Sex trade blights the lives of 2 million children; Canada is not doing enough to fight the international scourge of sex tourism". Montreal Gazette. 
  20. ^ "Child Sex Tourism". ECPAT International. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  21. ^ Chaninat & Leeds (3 September 2009). "US Sex Laws Abroad: The Long Arm of Uncle Sam". Sex Laws in Thailand, Part 1. Thailand Law Forum. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "Official: More than 1M child prostitutes in India - CNN". CNN. 11 May 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  23. ^ "The Crisis of Child Sexual Exploitation in Brazil: Between 250,000 and 2 million children forced into prostitution in Brazil". Libertad Latina. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f Guzder, Deena (30 August 2009). "Local Thai NGOs discuss efforts to end commercial sexual exploitation". Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  25. ^ Taylor, Jacqueline Sánchez (May 2000). "Chapter 3: Tourism and 'embodied' commodities: sex tourism in the Caribbean". In Clift, Stephen; Carter, Simon. Tourism and Sex: Culture, Commerce and Coercion. Tourism, Leisure and Recreation. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 41–53. ISBN 1-85567-549-8. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  26. ^ The New West Indian Sex tourists: survey[dead link]
  27. ^ Bender, Kimberly. "The Implications of Sex Tourism on Men’s Social, Psychological, and Physical Health". 
  28. ^ "BangkokPod Interviews Kaewmala of Thai Sex Talk". Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  30. ^ Guzder, Deena (25 August 2009). "The Economics of Commercial Sexual Exploitation". Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  31. ^ "Gender Mainstreaming Mandates: Beijing Platform for Action (1995)". Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI). United Nations. 1995. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  32. ^ "New Global Treaty to Combat "Sex Slavery" of Women and Girls". 10th United Nations Congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders. United Nations Department of Public Information. February 2000. DPI/2098. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  33. ^ Falang: Behind Bangkok's Smile at the Internet Movie Database
  34. ^ Hope in Heaven at the Internet Movie Database
  35. ^ Hardcash Productions (7 October 2003). "The Child Sex Trade". Cutting Edge. Channel 4. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  36. ^ Sex Tourism, Talking Points, from Channel 4[dead link]
  37. ^ My Boyfriend, the Sex Tourist at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]