Sex Tourism

Disgraceful Tourism

Girls at Palm Tree

Girls at Palm Tree

We travel because it's a rare kind of high that can also enlighten, rejuvenate, and ensure the occurrence of adventure. Regardless of the road's discomforts or challenges, travel seems to always evoke an inexplicable positivity - whether that's from the possibility of new friendships or just the newness of a myriad of elements. The scope of potential world travel is tantalizing, and thankfully tourism has the ability to elevate developing communities through employment opportunities and tax revenue. Win for the wanderer; win for the welcomers. Sadly, not every traveler sees his or her voyage to a new country in such a positive, symbiotic light. Those are the ones who perpetuate the very dark and very bleak side of travel. I'm talking about the perverted patrons of the sex tourism industry.

This post was written in conjunction with Angeline Diamond of ECPAT-USA.

The Darkest Form of Tourism

Kids at Palm Tree

Kids at Palm Tree

I'm not talking about backpackers who delight in a consensual tryst or the business traveler hoping to meet a cute gentleman in the hotel bar. I'm talking people whose sole purpose for travel is to engage in sex with minors, or they may take it one step further and transport someone for criminal sexual conduct. Ya know…real classy types.

Let's lay this out logically. Sex tourism increases the demand for prostitution. However, this demand is not easily met by women willing to choose this profession. Therefore, to meet demands, the supply of prostitutes becomes contingent on extensive human trafficking networks. These networks appear to be incredibly underground, which is why we don't hear about them like we do the drug trade. But sadly, the U. S. State Department says one million children worldwide are enslaved in the global commercial sex trade. Sex trafficking is considered one of the top three most profitable criminal networks in the world, generating about $4 billion dollars a year.

It's enough to make you writhe.

I feel rather morally comfortable while traveling, since I know for a fact I'm not engaging in anything related to sex tourism. But unfortunately, the travel industry often unintentionally contributes to this debilitating form of abuse. This doesn't mean anyone should point fingers and never leave their homes, but we as travelers, if we have any interest in our hosting communities, have a duty to act in ways that prevent the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of society: the children.

Kids are awesome, and to imagine a start to life wrapped up in such a seedy and life-threatening industry could induce nightmares and permanent travel guilt.

Know They're Out There

I've written about the creeps who often navigate to my site from google searches, like: cambodian naked boy, sex tourism friendly hotels, little boy with no shirt. If my blog were my home, I'd sit with an acidic potato gun on the front porch and fire at any creep who wonders on my lawn. To much our surprise, perverts aren't as easy to spot as Mormon evangelists (not that I'm encouraging the same activity to these solicitors…they're just easy to spot).

End child prostitution

End child prostitution

Instead, if I'm hoping that the world becomes a better place within my lifetime, I'd be better off imploring the help of fellow travelers who have an ounce of morality or two - hence, my blog post to you today.

I was recently contacted by ECPAT-USA, a network of organizations and individuals committed to the fight for children’s rights of freedom. While I know it's often fruitless to call for agency from an anonymous online audience, I figured it could only be beneficial to mention the tools they provide to assist the travel industry in preventing the sexual exploitation of children.

This acronym, which stands for Ending Child Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking, represents a group that focuses on research, advocacy, and public awareness. In conjunction with UNICEF and UNWTO, they created "The Code of Conduct," which outlines policies that may be adopted by travel companies within their code of ethics to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Over 900 companies worldwide are in support of the code thus far, yet there are many companies that still hesitate.

Seriously…these guys are hesitating to support actions that prevent sexual exploitation. I'd like to hear the rebuttal for that argument.

Here we are, at the end of my ramble, where you can choose to do a couple things. You can click away mentally and physically (I admit to doing it a lot). You can consider yourself more aware and decide to learn more on your own time (I like to do this, as well). You can also exercise your "take action" muscle and follow some ECPAT-USA recommended steps toward making the travel industry more responsible. Regardless of your next step, I appreciate your perusal of this content and hope you feel enriched for doing so.

Kick Those Creeps Where The Sun Don't Shine

  • You may print out The Code Postcard and drop it off with your travel companies, which declares that you support responsible travel practices and travel companies that feel the same way. The Postcard provides information on how they may become a signatory.

    • If you take this route, do let ECPAT-USA know where you sent the postcard. It helps them out.

    • Check out ECPAT-USA online and follow us on Twitter.

    • Research the internet for great blogs about current issues.

    • Talk with your friends, family, co-workers, and other travelers to promote awareness and create a greater force against these practices.

    • Purchase a TassaTag, a beautiful, fair trade plus luggage tag, which also increases public awareness and benefits ECPAT research and women in Thailand.

Do you have any questions concerning sex tourism around the world? If so, you may contact Angeline directly at angeline@ecpatusa.org. And if you have any other information, stories, or reflections on this issue, please add to our dialogue below.

A Creepy Recurrence

Some sweet Cambodian kids

Some sweet Cambodian kids

I pretty much praise anyone who finds a reason or the time to explore my site, and when people search the web and end up on Nomadderwhere, I'm just as thrilled. Some of my most popular posts are some I wouldn't have pegged to be for the masses, for example: My JanSport Backpack Review

Things I Didn't Know Before Coming to Greece

My Brush with Controversial Cambodia

And since the death of Evan Witty in April of 2009, I've received google searches daily from people who still wonder about his abrupt and unexpected death in Cambodia. It's somewhat comforting to know he's still very much in people's minds. I hope my post on Evan Witty offers some comforting words, as it's by far my most popular post to date.

However, I also get many searches that creep me out:

"child sex" "naked boy"

and the most troubling...

"cambodia sex tourist friendly hotels"

From these searches, people navigate to such stories as my night out at a hostess bar in Phnom Penh. That evening out, I experienced street flooding, chatted with some ladies at a hostess bar about their children, and fell asleep in the bathroom (don't judge). Hopefully those interested in the child sex industry are coming here to look for actions against the epidemic, not directions explaining how to find such activity.

I write about this today because...

1. it's Friday the 13th and creeps are ...well, creepy; and

2. I left the orphanage a year ago today.

It was one of my goals by year's end to find a way to return, through a collaboration with Fighting for Futures and an alliance with Airtreks. Though this didn't pan out due to my own budget restrictions, I don't plan to cut off my concern just because I can't physically return. What can I do if I can't actually be there? Enter the knife-like tongue.

Down with the Creeps

Someone I'm pulling for

Someone I'm pulling for

The visceral effect this disgusting occurrence has on those who witness it is a repulsion that screams to be known and acted upon. I know it's hard to decide which worthy causes in this world deserve our attention the most, as it's something like choosing a favorite child, but for me it's hard to imagine a worse start or end in life than to rely on a pedophile's twisted business for basic sustenance.

The media have been posting stories and videos on Youtube for decades displaying the realities of the sex tourism industry around the world, and not surprisingly the creeps keep on a-violating. Does it make a difference to simply make the public aware of this issue we seemingly cannot change? I guess we all say, "It's worth trying," but the utterance of this phrase [to me] almost seems to declare instant defeat and the acceptance of heartsickness for one and all.

Here's one of the many videos I found, this one from the New York Times from 2007.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSDiMIgrd9A

We make that worthy try, and there seems to be a airtight seal on the workings of impoverished communities where women and children fall into the industry of the body.

Then come organizations that seem to finally have a solution for catching the scum. Here's APLE and their sting operation on Harvey Johnson, suspected offender of all codes moral, judicial and human. I have yet to find the outcome of this case, but let's hope being a spectacle on ABC and across the internet will incapacitate him wherever he is.

There are a lot of people doing this work locally and operations concocted stateside, but I don't think it's promoting the right mindset to think these are the only people who should be making strides.

Fighting for Futures

Fighting for Futures

Enter initiatives like Fighting for Futures, which blossomed from a traveler's experience in Cambodia and aims to eradicate the child sex industry (and other awful realities of the third world) by enhancing their educations with liberating, creative approaches. Cathleen, the founder of FFF, felt that visceral repulsion and now spends every waking hour putting her own money into fundraising efforts across New York City in order to promote her upcoming trip to Southeast Asia to implement these creative programs.

She traveled. She was moved. She's going after the creeps.

I Challenge You

Today, on this Friday the 13th, I urge you to combat the creeps. Take a look at Fighting for Futures, Operation Twisted Traveler, and many other programs and organizations for the empowerment of kids stuck in this creep industry. It's modern-day slavery, human trafficking, and it's despicable.