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".
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, that also benefits service industries such as the airline, taxi, restaurant and hotel industries.
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 industry is believed to involve as many as 2 million children around the world.
"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."
In Thailand, though the exact numbers are not known, it has been estimated that children make up to 9% of prostitutes in the country. In India, the federal police say that around 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in prostitution.Brazil is considered to have the worst child sex trafficking record, after Thailand.
UNICEF notes that sexual activity is often seen as a private matter, making communities reluctant to act and intervene in cases of sexual exploitation. 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. The Internet provides an efficient global networking tool for individuals to share information on destinations and procurement.
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. However, child pornography, sex tourism and human trafficking remain fast-growing industries.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.
Preconceptions about race and gender influenced the tourists' opinions.
Economically underdeveloped tourist-receiving countries are promoted as being culturally different so that (in the Western tourist's understanding) prostitution and traditional male domination of women have less stigma than similar practices might have in their home countries.
However, despite a great deal of interest in sexual tourism amongst theorists, methodologically thorough and detailed studies remain rare, despite the increasing accessibility of such groups for study in the past three decades.
Opposition to sex tourism
Some human rights organizations claim that sex tourism contributes to human trafficking and child prostitution. 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.
Film makers have been active at reporting on sex tourism. Documentaries include:
Falang: Behind Bangkok's Smile, by Jordon Clark (2005), set in Thailand
CBC series the Lens episode "Selling Sex in Heaven" (2005), set in the Philippines
^"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 ..."
^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."
^"Costa Rica" (PDF). The Protection Project. Retrieved 20 December 2006.
^"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.""
^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'"
^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,"
^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"
^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."