QCOSTARICA – A two-year Global Study initiated by ECPAT International published last Thursday (May 12, 2016) reveals that more children are being sexually exploited than ever before and that this is an endemic phenomenon throughout the world.
The study, the first of its kind and marking the 20th anniversary of the First World Congress against commercial sexual exploitation of children, noted that poverty and exclusion favour this crime in countries in Latin America, like Costa Rica.
The report entitled “Global Study on Child Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” indicates that the response of governments in the region have been insufficient given the growing exploitation produced by national and international tourist flows.
One of the advisers to the study was Milena Grillo, director of the Paniamor Foundation in Costa Rica.
Speaking to the AP news agency, Grillo said one of the problems faced was the collection of statistics of the underground activity that exists. According to Grillo, experts on the issue agree that the problem is growing.
The document states that, in Costa Rica, as in other countries in Latin America, poverty and exclusion of developing tourist areas promotes sex tourism.
The study in Costa Rica found that recently developed tourist zones do not appreciably increase income for the poor. Instead, they often displace families living from traditional means (farming, fishing, etc) leaving them with few alternatives other than menial work in the tourism sector.
“… Research indicates that countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have increased efforts to promote tourism on a broad scale and sex tourism has grown proportionately. Research found that in Guanacaste despite the growth of the tourism sector, 31.6% of the population lives in poverty and 11.5% in extreme poverty, with an unemployment rate of 8.97%.”
The report stresses that children are the most vulnerable in this situation and is even more dangerous for migrants in transit through these countries.
“… Many countries in America, where tourism has experienced substantial government support, have proven to be fertile areas for growth of sex tourism …” says the report.
For Latin America, a region that is geographically, politically, economically, socially, racially, ethnically and culturally diverse.fourteen countries were researched for the full report, based mainly on the availability of information relevant to the Global Study: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
In a press release, the ECPAT says the study reveals that:
- There is no typical offender, they are tourists, business travelers, migrant & transie nt workers, expats or civil society volunteers;
- Travelling child sex offenders are usually from the region or country where the offense takes
- The internet and mobile technology have fueled the increase in SECTT by creating new pathways for exploitation and reinforcing anonymity of offenders;
- Most child sex offenders did not plan the crime, they commit because there is an
opportunity and they feel they can get away with it;
- No child is immune and victims are not only poor. Some are more vulnerable than others, such as the marginalized including minorities, street children, and LGBT;
- Services for victims remain inadequate;
- Enforcement and prosecution of offenders is hindered by a lack of coordination and information sharing between authorities; and
- There are alarmingly low conviction rates for the sexual exploitation of children, which means the majority of offenders evade justice.
The ECPAT report states that in Latin America the incidence of Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT) is very high, particularly in tourist areas near poor and excluded communities.
Tourist arrivals in Latin America have quadrupled since 1980, with three fourths of the travelers coming from the United States and Canada.
The report continues to say that the United States and Canada are source countries for offenders, who travel to other regions in order to sexually exploit children. However, child sex trafficking in business ravel, major events, conferences, oil fields, transport hubs, etc. have made the United States and Canada destination countries.
Europe is also viewed as a source for offenders with SECTT increasing, primarily in Central and Eastern Europe. The Global Study reveals the extent of SECTT, outlining itsglobal nature, whatmotivates it, the evolving trends and concrete recommendations for action, including a call for better ongoing data collection andmore research in to the issue.
The Global Study was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through ECPAT-Defence for Children in the Netherlands.
The Global Study involved 70+ contributors from the public and private sectors.