Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism - Equality Now

Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism

Equality Now tackles sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, often called “sex tourism”, a global issue that cuts across national borders and state lines. “Sex tourists” travel to buy sex from vulnerable women, girls and other vulnerable people, often from poor and marginalized communities.

Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has become far more complex, involving not only tourists but business travelers, migrant/transient workers and ‘voluntourists’ intent on exploiting women, girls, and other vulnerable people, as well as large numbers of domestic travelers. ECPAT's global study on sexual exploitation in travel and tourism confirms that offenders can come from any background and do not all fit the stereotypical profile: a white, Western, wealthy, middle-aged male pedophile. Some may be pedophiles but most are not. Both the age of the clients and the age of the victims are decreasing

There is increasing recognition of the links between organized sexual exploitation and travel for business or leisure, including for major sporting events such as the Super Bowl. 

Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism

Women, girls and other vulnerable people are often trafficked domestically or internationally to meet demand. Equality Now was one of the first human rights organizations to recognize the link between “sex tourism” and sex trafficking, and to focus on shutting down sex tour operators.

What is Equality Now doing to end sexual exploitation in travel and tourism?

  • We work with local organizations and survivors of sexual exploitation, including in travel and tourism, to build a nuanced understanding of sexual exploitation in their contexts, and jointly identify the range of interventions that are necessary to address it. 
  • We work with local partners to engage with state and non-state actors at the national, regional and international levels throughout the ecosystem and ensure that a movement of actors takes action to address sexual exploitation, including in travel and tourism. 
  • We promote state accountability to protect people from sexual exploitation by advocating for laws and policies that take into account the ecosystem of related and relevant laws and policies within each context and international laws and standards.  
  • We advocate that national laws uphold international laws and standards which have clear provisions on addressing sexual exploitation, structural and sex inequality and impunity of exploiters while protecting the exploited.  
  • We support local organizations to challenge impunity using the law and support them to deepen their analysis and be able to challenge attitudes towards shifting responsibility from those exploited to the exploiters.  
  • We support strategic litigation that highlights the predatory and gendered nature of sexual exploitation in travel and tourism and challenges the criminalization and social stigma faced by the exploited. 
  • We advocate for laws and policies that recognize the role of enablers and exploiters, and the impunity they enjoy while often making huge profits, and therefore penalize their actions taking into account the extent of their culpability in the cycle of sexual exploitation chain.

Our Impact: Tackling Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism

Learn more about: 

Sexual exploitation 

Trafficking for sexual exploitation

Addressing vulnerabilities 

The role of technology 

Legal approaches

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