Academic journal article
By Andrews, Sara K.
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology , Vol. 94, No. 2
The commercial sexual exploitation of minors by international tourists is a humanitarian tragedy carried out on a grand scale with virtually no repercussions for the criminal perpetrators. (1) According to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), an international child advocacy organization based in Bangkok, child prostitution in developing countries is a culturally embedded problem that is significantly exacerbated by foreign tourists. (2) The United States is one of the "sending countries" that enables the international child sex market to flourish by providing a wealthy and willing customer base. (3)
Although exact figures of the number of American tourists who travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors are difficult to obtain, arrest/detention records of popular travel destinations in the developing world, such as Southeast Asian countries, reveal a significant U.S. presence. (4) These records, however, are limited in their ability to provide an accurate assessment of the overall magnitude of the problem, because most sex tourists evade arrest in the countries in which they commit their crimes. (5) According to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, "[s]ex tourists often escape prosecution in the host countries" because of factors "ranging from ineffective law enforcement, lack of resources, corruption, and immature legal systems." (6) Most developing nations have little incentive for domestic enforcement because tourism is one of the main driving forces behind their economies. (7)
Over the past decade, the U.S. has publicly recognized the severity of the problem of child sexual exploitation on a global level and has undertaken measures designed to help solve the problem. (8) In 1994, President Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, better known as the Crime Bill. (9) The legislation included a provision, referred to as the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act, which made it a criminal offense to travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor. (10) In June 2002, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sex Tourism Prohibition Improvement Act of 2002, declaring the bill would "close significant loopholes" in the existing law. (11) Certain provisions included in this bill became law in April 2003, when President George W. Bush signed the PROTECT Act. (12) In addition, in December 2002, the U.S. became the forty-second country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. (13) Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2000, the Optional Protocol is the first instrument of international law to provide a framework for the criminalization of the actions of child sex abusers on a global level. (14)
Through its legislative efforts and support for the Optional Protocol, the U.S. has taken steps to acknowledge the gravity of the global problem of child sexual exploitation, as well as the complicity of U.S. citizens in its perpetuation. However, recognition of the severity of the problem, although an important development, is only the first step in the process of addressing child sexual exploitation in a meaningful and effective way. Since its passage in 1994, the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act has resulted in few actual prosecutions of U.S. nationals who traveled abroad for the purpose of committing sex crimes against minors. (15) Other "sending" countries, some with comparable extra-territorial legislation and some with more comprehensive laws, have also encountered low levels of enforcement. (16)
Part II of this Comment provides background on the extent of the problem of sex tourism. Part III explores the responses of the U.S and Australia on the one hand, and "receiving" countries on the other, examining what these nations are and are not doing in the areas of law and enforcement. …