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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?

Equality Now is working with Trace Kenya and LifeBloom Services International to call for legal reform that will protect women and girls from sexual exploitation and end impunity for perpetrators. As well as working on reform of national law including the Sexual Offenses Act, the Counter Trafficking In Persons Act, and the Children Act we are also engaging with local government to promote county-level laws and policies. Through our partners, we also engage with judiciary and law enforcement to encourage them to take a more gendered, survivor-centered approach. 

Our Impact: Tackling Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism

Jan 1996

Taking on Big Apple Oriental Tours

We campaigned 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 led New York to amend its anti-trafficking law, which gave police the tools to prosecute sex tour operators. After many investigations, we helped convict the company’s co-owner Douglas Allen of promoting prostitution in 2013.

Jan 1996
Jan 2003

Passing First US State Law Against Sex Tourism

We began 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 inspired Hawaii to introduce and pass the first state law to criminalize sex tourism. Video Travel’s proprietor had his travel agency license revoked and is no longer allowed to operate in Hawaii.

Jan 2003
Jan 2005

Calling on the US Government to End Sex Tourism

We called on the US government to stop sex tourism and to investigate GF Tours, a company exploiting women in Southeast Asia. We lobbied for stronger enforcement of federal anti-trafficking laws, which make sex tourism a crime, to shut them down. Due to our efforts, GF Tours removed graphic content from its materials.

Jan 2005
Jan 2006

First Sex Tourism Conviction in New York State

Equality Now brought 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 was found guilty, the first time that New York State law prohibiting the promotion of prostitution was used to prosecute a sex tour operator and the first conviction of its kind in the US.

Jan 2006
Jan 2011

Standing Up for Exploited Girls

We led 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 was settled. The funds helped the girls rebuild their lives. 

Jan 2011