Deena Guzder, reporting for the Pulitzer Center
BANGKOK, Thailand–In August 2009, ECPAT International released a global report on the trafficking of children for sexual purposes around the world. The global recession will only increase the vulnerability of children to traffickers, according to the new report. “The recent economic downturn is set to drive more vulnerable children and young people to be exploited by the global sex trade,” said Ms. Carmen M. Madrinan, Executive Director of ECPAT International. Watch Giorgio Berardi, Program Officer for Combating Child-Sex Tourism (CST) at ECPAT International talk about efforts in Thailand to end child prostitution and trafficking.
The report–Their Protection is in Our Hands-The State of Global Child Trafficking for Sexual Purposes–reveals that human trafficking for sexual purposes in many countries is increasing, and governments simply are not doing enough to protect young people. Trafficking is not only significant across international borders, but increasing within country borders. “The indifference that sustains the criminality, greed and perverse demands of adults for sex with children and young people needs to end,” said Ms. Carmen M. Madrinan, Executive Director of ECPAT International. Increasing poverty in children’s countries of origin, reduced budgets for social services, restrictive immigration laws in “destination countries” (which encourage children to avoid detection) are among the factors heightening the children’s vulnerability. Deterioration in the living conditions of entire households can compel young people to abandon school in order to contribute to the family income, exposing them to harmful situations as they become at risk of seeking livelihood options that lead to their being exploited.
In cases involving children, the U.S. has relatively strict domestic laws that hold accountable any American citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. who travels abroad for the purpose of engaging in illicit conduct with a minor. However, child pornography, sex tourism and human trafficking remain fast-growing industries. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. recently introduced H.R. 1623, the International Megan’s law. Similar to the domestic Megan’s Law (named after Megan Kanka of New Jersey), which provides for community notification when a sex offender is living in the area, H.R. 1623 would alert officials abroad when U.S. sex offenders intend to travel, and likewise encourage other countries to keep sex offender lists and to notify the U.S. when a known sex offender may be coming to the United States for sex tourism. While there are serious problems with the current domestic sex offenders’ registry, human rights organizations such as ECPAT and UNICEF believe this would be a step in the right direction.