Sexual exploitation of children in tourism
Do you know that feeling when a problem seems too horrific for words that you feel like sticking your head in the sand? Do you know that feeling when an issue seems too overwhelming that you can’t possibly see a way how you, as an individual or business, could ever make a difference?
That is exactly how I felt going into a workshop on the sexual exploitation of children in relation to tourism. Fair Trade Tourism as the official SA rep of The Code together with Molo Songololo facilitated a training session for tourism professionals to prevent sexual exploitation of children. At the end of this workshop, I felt rather empowered to know that I can make a difference and so can you!
Sadly, physical and mental abuse as well as sexual exploitation of children occurs on a daily basis all around the world. It is estimated that we have around 18.5 million children in South Africa. Over 60% of those children live in poverty with all the related social issues, such as substance abuse, domestic & social violence, crime, and broken families, making them even more vulnerable.
Although solid national and international legislation exists to protect our children, the sobering stats speak for themselves:
- Over 66,000 sexual offences were reported in 2013, including rape and sexual exploitation (Crime Stats SA, 2013).
- Research suggests that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys have been sexually molested by the time they turn 18 years old (Doctors for Life, 2013).
- More than 25% of men have committed rape, mostly they were between the age of 15-19 (Medical Research Council, 2013).
The high numbers of vulnerable children coupled with the ever increasing domestic and international tourist arrivals in South Africa, creates increasing opportunities and potential for sexual exploitation of children in tourism. It is our civil and moral responsibility as an industry to open our eyes to this reality and be proactive. We need to show the world that South Africa has zero tolerance on child sex in tourism!
So what can tourism businesses do?
Implement simple policies and procedures against sexual exploitation of children relevant to your business, and communicate these policies and procedures clearly to your employees, customers, and business partners.
Train and inform your employees on issues of child sex in tourism, what they need to look out for, and how to report any suspicious behaviour.
Whenever and wherever possible raise awareness among your customers about child sex in tourism.
The below video produced by ECPAT France for the Accor Hotel Group shows it so well how everybody within an organisation can play their part in being conscious of what happens within e.g. an accommodation establishment and how to act on any suspicion. Never turn a blind eye!