With the ease of international air travel, arranging sex tourismincluding sex with under-age girlsis almost as simple as clicking on a website. By taking trips to areas tolerant of prostitution, American tourists or business travelers can easily take advantage of the estimated 2 million prostituted children in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Economically depressed or politically unstable regions are especially vulnerable to commercialized sex.
According to World Vision, some predators travel specifically for "sex tours," expecting anonymity, low-cost prostitution, ready access to children, and immunity from prosecution. Americans account for 25 percent of child sex tourists, according to reliable global estimates. The average victim is 14 years old, although some prostituted children are pre-adolescent. Besides the emotional and physical wounds of sexual abuse, the children are also at great risk of HIV infection.
To combat child sex tourism, World Vision has teamed up with national governments and U.S. immigration and law enforcement agencies. U.S. citizens and residents can face up to 30 years imprisonment for engaging in sexual activity with children under 18, even if they do so outside the U.S.
Internationally, prosecutions are rare. In a recent case, Australian police arrested a pilot, charging him under an anti-sex tourism law. He is accused of abducting a Papua New Guinea girl and forcing her to have sex with him.
Sadly, corrupt law enforcement feeds the problem in countries such as Thailand, says Graham Tardif, who until recently oversaw World Vision's anti-trafficking program in Thailand. Since trafficking profits are huge and local wages are low, accepting bribes to look the other way is a huge temptation ...