Tell Travel Stories to Stop Sex Tourism

7 years ago

Costa “the capital of eco-tourism” Rica ain’t on the list, mostly because of its booming underage sex trade... Costa Rica is credited with having the region’s largest child prostitution problem and has thus been flagged by INTERPOL, as the country is fast becoming the hemispheric capital of sex tourism.--The Faster Times

The government in Cambodia supports “Child Safe Tourism” with hotel staffers who participate in preventing and reporting child labor violations including sex tourism involving children. Implementation of literacy programs is a key recommendation for tackling prostitution in key tourist areas of Cambodia. Being able to read and write is a skill most prostitutes in Cambodia lack and “prerequisite to improve their livelihood options”.-- Boarding Area

Nothing gets me quite as spun up into a lather as sex tourism. I don't write about it much because of the foam factor, but I've seen it -- I had to pull myself together something fierce in a cafe in Phnom Pehn once because really, the guy was much bigger than I am and what was I going to change by yelling "YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF" at a working girl and her "customer" in a restaurant? Thankfully, she appeared to be of age, and weirdly, as strident as I am about sex tourism, I also think a well managed prostitution industry is not the great evil it's painted as. There, I've said it. But it gets uglier, it gets worse. Children get roped into sex tourism kids suffer in ways that, well, heartbreaking is not a big enough word for how those lives are ruined.

I've been trading email with Diana Scimone, a advocate for better lives for kids, a children's book author -- and a passionate traveler about her Born to Fly project.

The Born to Fly Project is a strategic 4-stage plan to educate kids, parents, and teachers about the dangers of child trafficking—with the ultimate goal of ending it.

Diana says that travelers are in a unique place to help stop sex tourism, especially as it affects kids. She contacted me because Human Trafficking Awareness Day is coming up, it's January 11, and she was hoping I could help spread the word about what travelers can do.

Let’s say you’re a travel writer. Maybe you were in Bangkok last month and saw something that just didn’t look right—a 5-year-old girl walking with someone obviously not her father. Or perhaps you were wandering through Mumbai and wondered about those cages you saw in upper-floor windows. (They hold little girls smuggled in from Nepal.) Maybe you wondered what you could possibly do to make a difference.

A lot.

Blog about what you’ve seen, what you did about it (or wished you’d done), or anything else that sheds light on the horror that 1 million kids a year are forced to endure.

I know, I know. It's awful. It's impossible to bear, and to think about writing about this in the middle of your travels to see some great wonder of the world... my insides seize right now, at my desk in Seattle. But I'm also a believer in the value of travelers as activists, in the idea that travelers can make change for the better in the places they visit. I'm a fan of voluntourism as an idea, but I'll fess up: I haven't done any of it myself. I save it up for when I'm back at home and then, consider my actions. And I'm grateful -- and aware that it's not nearly enough -- to be involved in travelblogger driven efforts like Passports with Purpose.

I'm rambling. What I meant to say is that January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you've seen something in your travels that "isn't quite right", as Diana suggested, that's a good day to blog about it. You could give money to causes that provide education for kids in impoverished places. You could travel in the style of Stay Another Day, a resource that lists places in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam that are GREAT places to spend your money without sacrificing any of your "I'm not working, I'm on vacation!" mojo. There are lots of resources if you want to act. My stance on this is really not far off from Diana's quote above. I believe in the power of storytelling and if you're out in the world and see a story that needs telling, please do so. It can make a huge difference.

Pam blogs about travel and other adventures at Nerd's Eye View.

Nerd's Eye View

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