The Tourism Child Protection Code

The Tourism Child Protection Code

All over the world, children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. A widespread global child sex trade has been established and demand has increased, resulting in increased supply. The commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs all over the world, mainly in South-East Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Tourism growth, especially rapid growth, may impact negatively on destinations measured in social, environmental and economic terms. One such negative impact is the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in tourism – commonly referred to as child sex tourism (CST). This cruel, worldwide phenomenon is defined as “the commercial sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another, usually from a richer country to one that is less developed and there engage in sexual acts with children.” The Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) is an instrument of self-regulation and Corporate Social Responsibility, which aims to provide increased protection to children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.

In South Africa, at least 40,000 children are exploited as child prostitutes each year and more than 250,000 children live on the streets with an average age being 13 years old. The number of trafficked and exploited children is not known, however, statistics show that every year 1,500 children under the age of 18 go missing. According to Jennifer Seif, Executive Director of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), these vulnerable children are “easy targets” and especially at risk of being exploited in the Child Sex Tourism business.

Although South Africa is not a renowned Child Sex Tourism or trafficking destination, certain realities in the country create the perfect environment for the exploitation of children. These are: the inflow of tourists, the ease with which people can cross its borders, societal beliefs that tolerate violence against women, high levels of poverty and growing inequality since 1994 suggest that tens of thousands of children are at risk of sexual and other forms of exploitation. Domestic as well as foreign tourists may knowingly or unknowingly become involved in child exploitation, for example by transacting sex with an underage sex worker or buying goods from a trader exploiting child labour.

Over 1000 companies have already signed The Code across the globe. The initiative, which started as a project of ECPAT International¹, has been endorsed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and many national governments. The Code is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and requires commitment from all levels of the signatory company's business.

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