Equality Now tackles sex tourism, a global issue that cuts across national borders and state lines. “Sex tourists” travel to buy sex from vulnerable women and girls, often from poor and marginalized communities.
TACKLING SEX TOURISM THROUGH THE LAW
Equality Now was one of the first human rights organizations to recognize the role sex tourism plays in trafficking, and to focus on shutting down sex tour operators. In 2001, we led a coalition for the passage of the Palermo Protocol, the leading international guide to combating trafficking, which specifically includes provisions about sex tourism.
In the United States, our advocacy has led to a lot of firsts at the state and federal level:
OUR IMPACT: ENDING SEX TOURISM
1996: Taking on Big Apple Oriental Tours
We campaign to shut down Big Apple Oriental Tours, a New York City-based company exploiting women and girls in the Philippines and Thailand. In 2007, our efforts lead New York to amend its anti-trafficking law, which gives police the tools to prosecute sex tour operators. After many investigations, we help convict the company’s co-owner Douglas Allen of promoting prostitution in 2013.
2003: Passing First US State Law Against Sex Tourism
We begin our campaign to shut down Hawaii-based sex tour operator Video Travel, a company exploiting women and girls in Thailand. Our campaign and legal support inspires Hawaii to introduce and pass the first state law to criminalize sex tourism. Video Travel’s proprietor has his travel agency license revoked and is no longer allowed to operate in Hawaii.
2005: Calling on the US Government to End Sex Tourism
We call on the US government to stop sex tourism, and to investigate GF Tours, a company exploiting women in Southeast Asia. We lobby for stronger enforcement of federal anti-trafficking laws, which make sex tourism a crime, to shut them down. Due to our efforts, GF Tours removes graphic content from its materials, but further investigation is needed to shut them down completely.
2006: First Sex Tourism Conviction in New York State
Equality Now brings the case of Jump Off Destinations, a New York-based sex tour operator traveling to the Dominican Republic, to the attention of the Manhattan District Attorney. In 2007, the owner is found guilty, making this the first time that New York State law prohibiting the promotion of prostitution is used to prosecute a sex tour operator, and the first conviction of its kind in the US.
2011: Standing Up for Exploited Girls
We lead a civil case in the US on behalf of Brazilian girls who were sexually exploited by a US-based sex tour operator. With pro bono support from a law firm, we filed the first known civil action under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. In 2015, the case is settled. The funds have helped the girls rebuild their lives. We continue to go after sex tour operators.
Learn more about our work to end sex trafficking.
READ MORE: PROGRESS TO END SEX TOURISM
Allegations Link U.S. Companies to Brazilian Sex Tourism (New York Times)
Human Trafficking: The Business of Trafficking (WGBH News)
Bill Signed Into Law To End "Sex Tours" (Hawaii News Now)
Press Release: Hawaii Passes Law Against Sex Tourism (Equality Now)