International child rights organization UNICEF is preparing a new strategy to eradicate the sexual exploitation of children in tourist locations throughout Colombia.
The strategy, called “Host from the Heart”, is part of UNICEF’s international campaign against the sexual exploitation of children, “Make the invisible visible”, which was announced on July 31st.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the infrastructure of tourism is being used for the exploitation of and trafficking of persons, with children particularly vulnerable.
Commercial sexual exploitation affects an estimated 2 million children in the world, of which 70% are girls, according to ECPAT, the global organization working to eradicate child prositution, child pornography and child sex-trafficking. In Colombia there are an estimated 35,000 children involved in the sex industry, with 2000 of them in the Caribbean tourist hot spot of Cartagena.
The “Host from the Heart” campaign involves hotels agreeing to train all of their personnel about the importance of preventing the sexual exploitation of children, as well as making it possible for guests to donate to the anti-exploitation cause upon paying their bill.
Some 109 tourist establishments, including hotels and restaurants, have already obtained a certificate called “The Code”, which requires those establishments to adhere to 6 criteria, including training employees in children’s rights, maintaining a zero-tolerance policy towards the sexual exploitation of children, and providing information to travelers about the issue.
The commercial sexual exploitation of children is defined as sexual abuse committed against a person of less than 18 years of age, in which the victim or a third party is offered money or other objects in exchange for having sexual relations with said victim or for their use in pornographic material. As such, the victim is treated as a piece of merchandise or as an object, who is sold or bought by an adult, and so it represents a modern form of slavery.
The Code website claims that often tourists “go out of their way to travel to countries where child prostitution is common so that they can have sexual contact with children”, while others “spontaneously decide to experiment with children because they believe that this kind of behavior is more acceptable in certain countries”.
In Colombia the issue of sexual exploitation is made worse by the existence of a macho culture that is “permissive and tolerant” towards the issue, says UNICEF. This is exacerbated by a widespread ignorance of children’s rights and a culture of objectifying women.
Sexual violence against women and children has also been used during Colombia’s 49-year armed conflict as a tool of war to spread terror, displace, threaten and extort women and their families. At least 50% of displaced women have been victims of sexual violence.
- Unicef promueve estrategia para evitar explotación sexual
- The Code website
- RENACER foundation
- Huésped de Corazón, contra la explotación sexual comercial de niñas, niños y adolescentes (Unicef)
- ECPAT website
- Make the Invisible Visible: UNICEF urges louder voices and urgent action to fight violence against children (Unicef)