Recent research suggests there is a growing problem involving a large number of children in many different holiday destinations around the world who are being sexually exploited for commercial gain.
- The children involved are usually aged between 13 to 18. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child and should be protected against any form of sexual exploitation.
- British citizens and residents can be prosecuted in the UK for sexual offences against children overseas .
- Children exploited through prostitution are victims not criminals. Most of those being exploited in this way are not doing so from choice, but are forced to be involved. Their exploitation causes tremendous emotional and physical damage and involves a high risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases and/or HIV/AIDS.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 enables British citizens and residents who commit sexual offences against children overseas to be prosecuted in the UK.
Some of the offences carry penalties of up to life imprisonment and anyone found guilty will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register. All registered sex offenders have to notify the police when they intend to leave the country for 3 days or more. The UK police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and Interpol are actively involved in monitoring child sex tourists and will prosecute where necessary.
WHAT YOU CAN DO AS A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELLER
You can help prevent children from being sexually exploited. If you:
- see anyone you think is involved in the sexual exploitation of a child.
- are approached by anyone asking if you would be interested in a sexual relationship with a child; or
- have any information which you think may help the police enforce the laws against travelling child sex offenders.
DON’T BE A VICTIM
And finally remember these important tips to protect you whilst you are on holiday.
- Be cautious when meeting new people whilst abroad - it’s easy for your drink to be spiked or your food to be drugged.
- Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded or coerced into a situation you would not be comfortable with back home.
- Remember you are on holiday and however easy it feels shedding inhibitions you are a visitor and you are responsible for your actions.
- Be aware you may not be able to judge a person’s age correctly. If in doubt remember you could be breaking the law.
- Children are children regardless of local cultural practices and British citizens and residents can be prosecuted in the UK, under UK law, for sexual offences committed against children overseas.
Photo source: Mikel Flamm / World Vision