“Maria is . . . prostituted by her aunt. Maria is obliged to sell her body exclusively to foreign tourists in Costa Rica, she only works mornings as she has to attend school in the afternoon.
Maria is in fifth grade.”
~U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division
Sex tourism, including child-sex tourism, has become an increasingly large segment of the world market. An estimated 25% of sex-tourism customers are from the United States. They help support a multi-billion dollar illegal commercial sex trafficking industry, which promotes violence and discrimination against women. A handful of countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are noted destinations. Children of course are especially vulnerable to becoming victims. For instance a UNICEF report says that over 30% of children between 12 and 18 in Kenya are involved in the sex tourism business, a staggering statistic. As with all prostitution, sex-tourists are overwhelmingly men, but women are also sometimes seen here as customers.
Only five U.S. states—Alaska, Hawaii, Missouri, New York and Washington—currently have laws that make operating sex tours a form of pimping and specifically prohibit the operation of these businesses. Successful prosecutions have proven very difficult. The organizers of these operations hide behind business fronts as legitimate travel agencies promising ‘exotic vacations for men’. Greater federal involvement is being sought by advocate groups to rein in those businesses that operate and advertise freely here in the U.S.
The 2003 U.S. PROTECT Act
Each year, adults travel outside the country and engage in sexual behaviors with minors, which, of course, is illegal in the U.S. Until recently, such perpetrators were rarely prosecuted. In the past, successful prosecutions of child sex tourism cases in the U.S. were hampered because prosecutors had to prove the alleged perpetrator traveled abroad for the express purpose of engaging in sex with minors. In April of 2003, the U.S. passed the PROTECT ACT. This law strengthens the American government’s ability to prosecute sexual tourism related criminal cases. The law makes it a crime for anyone to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor while traveling abroad, regardless of whether or not such behavior was the intended purpose of their travel to the foreign destination. It also toughens the prosecution of persons coming to the U.S. to engage in illicit sexual activity and persons operating child sex tours. As a result of this new legislation, the number of successful prosecutions for sex tourism has increased.
Note: Child sex tourism cases are prosecuted by the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), a specialized unit of the Criminal Section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. More information on CEOS can be found at the following website: www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos
Tips and complaints related to child sex tourism cases have come in through the DOJ Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation hotline is 888-428-7581. It has played a crucial role in the apprehension and conviction of 32 violators of child sex tourism laws.
On a broader front, an effort is being made to intervene in child sexual exploitation by enlisting the aid of those places where these events frequently transpire, namely hotels and the transportation and tourism services that make the travel arrangements. By engaging them to train their staffs to be alert for, and know how to report suspicious activities, it is hoped this crime may be curtailed. Known as “The Code“, you can support this initiative by patronizing establishments that have signed on, and by urging those that have not to do so.
18 U.S.C. § 2423(c) prohibits an American citizen or national engaging in illicit sexual conduct outside the United States and carries a 30 year maximum sentence.
18 U.S.C. § 2423(d) prohibits arranging or facilitating, for financial gain, another person’s travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct and carries a 30 year maximum sentence.
Extraterritorial Sexual Exploitation of Children, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Criminal Exploitation & Obsenity Section (CEOS)
In the News:
The Travel Industry Takes On Human Trafficking, New York Times by TANYA MOHN, Pub: 11/8/12
How Flight Attendants Fight Against Human Trafficking, Deseret News by MERCEDES WHITE, Pub: 10/31/12I
Notice to US citizens: Your actions abroad may have serious consequences CE Press Release, 10/17/12
Allegations Link U.S. Companies to Brazilian Sex Tourism, New York Times by BARRY MEIER, 7/9/11
To join us in action and discussion, please visit
TO REPORT AN INSTANCE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING, DIAL 1-888-3737-888
OR CALL YOUR LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT/DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE!