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The Ugly Face of Sex-Tourism Investigated and Revealed

How tourism feeds the sex-trade

Tourism is a highly specialized niche-industry, offering a solution for anybody’s taste and preference.

For the last two decades, the tourism industry has witnessed tremendous growth and it’s still booming. International traveling is expected to reach over 1.8 million come 2030. The world has become a global village thanks to the internet and cheap flights.

The role of the internet

The recent rapid growth in internet and technology knowledge has become a very effective tool that promotes the shady, immoral and often illegal side of travel: the sex-tourism industry.

Hundreds of websites if not thousands of them, are dedicated to promoting forums where individuals or agencies can freely advertise commercial sex. Cheap flights, on the other hand, make the world a small village where any tourist can travel across without losing a leg.

This growth in the tourism industry has innumerable positive outcomes among them being economic development and cultural integration.

But it has also increased risks especially to vulnerable communities and population like women and children who are likely to get exploited.

What is sexual tourism?

Sexual tourism is defined as a trip or vacation arranged by a traveller with the sole intention of having or procuring sex from the locals of their destination or/and fellow travelers.

Sex tourists are individuals with a pleasure-seeking attitude and they’re ready to travel miles away to gain access to casual-sex and commercial sex workers.

red lights district
The Red Lights District in Amsterdam, Holland promotes sex-tourism legally.

Why do sex-tourists combine travel and sex?

Why would a person spend a lot of money to acquire a visa, spend hours on a plane just to have sex with total strangers?

Well, it’s rare to find a tourist that’s dedicated to finding and seeking out sex-travel exclusively. Though the main reason for traveling is to have casual sex, often this’s just one part of the overall experience.

They combine sightseeing, beach time and night life to have a little of everything while meeting new sex workers and faux/surrogate girlfriends.

There’s no single or common denominator to why a man or woman, young or old would choose to travel for sex.

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Everyone has their own reasons but a few examples below could shed some light to some common possible reasons.

Reasons for promiscuous sexual behavior

Older men

older men younger women prostitution
This is not an unusual sight in some less developed countries.
  • A widowed or divorced old man who still has the urge for sex still has eyes for young and beautiful women. But, unfortunately, young women from his native country are less inclined to get attracted to him. This could be because of cultural and social stigma in the person’s home country.
  • Such a man would find a good reason to travel to less developed countries where young ladies won’t mind offering sex in exchange for money.

Unsatisfied sexual practices and desires

  • Some married or engaged couples might have desires that they find too embarrassing to disclose to their partners. Casual and random sex with no strings attached fulfill their desires without ruining their existing relationships.

Psychological and physical problems

  • Unfortunately physically and psychologically challenged people may have a hard time finding or attracting a mate that would embrace and fully understand them. Such people might resort to sex-tourism to get some company and meet new people.

Unhealthy relationships and marriages

  • People experiencing hardships with their partners might plan this travels with an aim of finding themselves and getting a break from their emotional-draining relationships.

Sexual fantasy fulfillment and pleasure

  • Hedonistic- hedonists are out to seek sexual fantasy fulfillment and pleasure even if it means crossing a couple of oceans. They’ll drop everything for the next adventure.
Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One aspect of travel to exotic far-away places can include secret fantasies and forbidden adventure fulfillment for some. Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro.

Why does sex-tourism exist?

Though a few countries like Brazil legalize such activities like prostitution, sex-tourism is frowned upon in most countries and is considered illegal.

That, however, doesn’t mean countries put in commendable efforts in eradicating the issue. This industry is known to be a lucrative business, especially in developing countries.

ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution And Trafficking) estimates that approximately 250, 000 people travel each year internationally to engage in sex tourism and the industry generates about $20 billion in revenue annually.

A deeper analysis of the problems

Could this be the reason why governments turn a blind eye to sex tourism? Perhaps because this industry contributes heavily to a country’s economy? This could be the reason why in most countries prostitution is illegal yet it’s still permitted/ tolerated.

Child prostitution and human trafficking either rightly or wrongly is believed to be spinoffs as far as sextourism industry is concerned.

Geographical trouble spots

Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Central America, and some African countries’ reputation go beyond them. They ’re prime destinations for sex tourists.

In recent years, some countries in South America and North America have also joined the list.

A profile of the offenders

Most of the offenders are not necessarily wealthy in their native countries, but they have more disposable income compared to their victims.

Affordable and cheap traveling packages allow the tourists who enjoy little or no social status back at their home countries to appear powerful in their destination. So, apart from sexual pleasure, sex tourism is also about power.

Why do women and children get involved in sex-tourism and prostitution?

Though sex tourism and prostitution is labeled illegal in most countries, women and children are still willing to put their health and lives at risk, lower their moral value and break the law.

Some women would do this for fun. The highest percentage would abandon this risky life if provided with a viable alternative. Some of the reasons why women and children get involved in this industry include the following:

Poverty

  • Statistics show that even in countries where prostitution is totally legal, the majority of the prostitutes aren’t the natives. Rather, they are the women with fewer alternatives and options compared to their western counterfeits. 
  • Most of them get into prostitution in a desperate attempt to get food, clothes and extra cash. Basically, sex-tourism is looked at as a vital survival strategy by poor women and children.

False promises

  • Sometimes, money doesn’t exactly exchange hands.  A woman or a girl in Africa would be promised marriage by an offender which will mean a new and better life in Europe or America. These women are willing to exchange sex for such promises.

Unemployment

  • Yes, prostitution and sex-tourism include exploitation and degradation of women.
  • But, we can look at an example from Thailand. A woman working in a rice farm earning a small measly hand-to-mouth mere-existence salary would find her job’s compensation degrading, compared to the income that prostitution can bring.
Thailand women

Children and prostitution, a Case study in Africa

While it’s hard to term sex between two consenting adults as exploitation, sex tourism unfortunately draws poor and orphaned young children into the tangle.

Most of the girls get introduced to this business by either their relatives or peers.

Tal Raviv from a branch of International Organization For Migration in Kenya (IOM) says that; ‘Child victims mostly don’t have protection from their family’. The parents are either dead or they’re the ones forcing their kids into prostitution in order to get some sort of livelihood.

In Mombasa, the coastal part of Kenya, street children offer sex to tourists for as little as $1! Although there’s no accurate figure on the exact number of kids involved in the industry, a released report by IOM in May 2018 said that about 15,000 children between the age of 12 and 18 reside near tourist hubs along the coast.

Generally, sex tourism involving children has been blamed for increased number of school dropouts, illiteracy and un-ending poverty as most kids skip school in pursuit of peanut cash offered by tourists.

These kids get exposed to possible dangers like physical or mental abuse, human trafficking and even not being paid for their services. After all there’s no law to protect them as workers.

The role of developing countries

Developing countries have an unstable, fragile economy and mostly experience economic pressure. For this reason, governments pay less attention to the devastating and irreversible consequences. It’s an industry that requires both morally imperative and legal obligations to actively take part in order to fully eradicate the crime.

poor countries
Many developing countries have few resources to combat socioeconomic and moral issues.

Dangers of sex-tourism

For two mature adults with freedom of choosing what to or not to do, it’s not possible to pose a moral argument on sex-tourism. But no matter where in the world one might be traveling to it’s both immoral and illegal to get involved sexually with a minor.

Here are some of the ramifications of sex tourism especially to the unsuspecting women and innocent children:

Risk of STDs and HIV

  • Most women and children involved in sex tourism barely know the need to stand their ground and insist on using protection or they’re far too afraid of irritating their ‘customers’. So they just play along. This puts them in risk of contracting diseases.

Abuse

  • Victims of sex-tourism always stand a chance of being assaulted physically as well as mentally. All they can do is suffer in silence because they’re either too embarrassed to seek help or they’re afraid of being arrested for getting involved in illegal trade.

Unwanted pregnancies that result in abortion

  • Unwanted pregnancies are more likely to happen to the young girls who are naïve and unfamiliar with the use of contraceptives. In order to get back to business as soon as possible, these kids often turn to abortion which further puts their lives in danger.

How can sex-tourism be stopped?

sex tourism investigated
The anonymous faces of sexual exploitation travel cannot be easily stopped.

Sex tourism is a huge industry that’s complicated, multifaceted and a wide-reaching obstacle that’s hard to conquer. More efforts from society and tougher laws are needed.

A couple of approaches can contain its spread:

  1. Governments of the affected countries should support businesses that help young women and kids gain respectable employment or join education programs.
  2. Non-governmental organizations, such as The Code, and other formal and informal agencies working to protect young girls should receive more support from both the government and society. 

So what is your opinion about sex-tourism?

I know that the subject is a controversial one, and would love to hear what you think about the subject if you wish to comment below.

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