Over the past 20 years or so, the issue of child-sex tourism has become more frequent in news reports, while numerous research papers and specialists analyses have been, and are being, devoted to it vis-à-vis an apparent growth of the phenomenon. Whether that growth is real or just perceived as a result of greater visibility and better reporting is not verifiable, as no official figures exist on the problem. What is certain is that an unacceptable number of children in vulnerable conditions are still constantly at risk of sexual exploitation by economically more powerful strangers from a different community or a different country. Also, it has been shown over the years that children not currently at risk of exploitation thanks to low tourist arrivals in their areas or the comparative inaccessibility of their home regions may very rapidly become vulnerable if no suitable protective mechanisms are in place when economic conditions and tourist flows change for any reason and expose their communities to contacts not experienced previously.
Three of the most relevant are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
International meetings, congresses, the UN Study on Violence against children and related processes on the issue have contributed to the establishment of links between the different key stake holders involved in fighting child sexual exploitation and other forms of gender based violence.
In 2008, SANTAC conducted a research, which studied the connection between the trafficking in children and sexual exploitation and violence in all its forms. In their different forms and contexts, sexual exploitation and sexual violence are known to disproportionately involve men and women as perpetrators, and girls, boys and women as victims. Historically, however, research, programs and policies related to sexual exploitation and sexual violence have focused mainly on protecting and assisting girls, boys and women and have given relatively little attention to the importance of involving the whole tourism sector as key allied to prevent such behaviors.
Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is not an isolated practice, but part of a system of discrimination and violence, a socio-economical and political system based on mercantilism of people.
Corporate social responsibility
Commercial sexual exploitation of children in all its forms, including sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, has been universally recognised as a violation of the fundamental human rights of its victims: a form of sexual abuse that victimises each child twice, firstly in treating the child as a sex object and secondly in treating the child as a commodity. It is seen as a modern expression of slavery, forced on and harmful to its victims. Therefore, it is important to develop sensitization programs for the media and other key private sector groups in order to support and encourage internal regulations and minimum standards to ensure that their services and products are not having a negative impact on the community. These types of initiatives require multi-sector coordination, including the government to reinforce the need, the companies in development and implementation, and the civil society in providing support.