Sexual Tourism

There’s a side of the travel and tourism world that hides in the shadows.  It isn’t discussed openly and lurks in the furthest reaches of the internet.  It’s sexual tourism, traveling for the purpose of prurient sexual activity.  This goes far beyond simply employing the services of prostitute.  In much of the world this involves westerners traveling for the explicit purpose of using women, men, and children (both girls and boys) for the fulfillment of fetishistic sexual urges.

I witnessed this first hand while in Southeast Asia.  As we traveled through Thailand Cambodia, and Vietnam, I often saw middle aged and elderly men with very young locals sitting closely in bars and restaurants.  Always, his arm would be resting on the shoulders of the young woman or man, who would sit sit stooped over, often with a look of bewilderment and shame on their faces.  The men were generally from Europe (I heard lots of English and German being spoken) or from the U.S.  The “companion” was a local.  He would buy them a drink, and the young person would cover their mouth and giggle, and try to be entertaining in spite of the age and language barriers.  I would see these couples walking down the streets, holding hands, the westerner seemingly slightly pulling the young person a step behind them.  The young people were either dressed modestly, almost like a librarian, or looked as though they were going to or coming from a nightclub in the middle of the day.  Skirts were too short.  Heels were too high.  Biceps and pecs were displayed a bit to prominently.  Men and women tying to be a fantasy of someone else, simply made their youth more obvious.  They desperately wanted to look like idealized adults, but couldn’t escape the reality that they seemed to not too far removed from the onset of puberty.  I loved my time in this part of the world, but each time I saw this scene being played out it pitted my stomach, and left me deeply disturbed.

To undertand this phenomena, you must be first understand who these people are.  The locals involved in this “business,” (make no mistake, it IS a business), often come from impoverished backgrounds.  For some, their parents have sold them into this way of life in an attempt to make money for the family, and simultaneously “unload” a child that would only cost more money to house, and clothe, and feed.  In some cases the parents did not understand exactly they were putting their children into, but for many this was a knowing decision. Some young people have sought out these “relationships” in attempts to make money in order to help themselves, and to support their families.  Again, horrific poverty drives the decision making.

Often these “arrangements” for westerners are set up prior to the visitor’s departure from their home country via the internet.  Underground companies exist specifically to match westerners to their temporary “friend.”  In some cases the relationship lasts the entire length of the stay, but in others, it is little more than a sexual encounter.  One example of this type of “trip” was infamously embarked upon by 1970s glam rocker Gary Glitter, who after avoiding child abuse charges in the UK in the late 1990s left to Cambodia and Vietnam, and was was eventually charged in both countries with a multitude of criminal offenses endangering and abusing children.  At one point he was stopped while attempt to travel on another of these “sex tours.”

Who it is that gets involved in these practices is a matter of some debate.  It isn’t just men (and some women) searching for illicit pleasures, although that’s a large part of the crowd.  Very often its older people who simple are looking for companionship.  In some cases, companionship is as far as it goes.  In others they may be looking for young, some very young women.  For others though, the situation is far different.  They travel looking to engage in behaviors that are illegal in their home countries.  These behaviors often inflict harm on the recipient of their actions.  Although this is more pronounced in the second and third world, this type of “tourism” is also common in the western world.  Sexual slavery, may be hidden but it still very much alive.

How to address and end these issues are difficult problems and often raise more questions than they answer.  Much of this comes from poverty, and only when standards of living are improved does the need begin to dissipate.  Organizations have been formed to help save people from these lives, and they are working, but in terms of numbers, it really is an uphill battle.  Mobility, ease,  and the ever decreasing price of travel has made the stream of people looking for this type of travel experience, and the number of people who find themselves in the position of meeting those needs, continues to grow.  Education is also lacking in regions of the world where it is common, and as parents are better educated, they become less likely to sell their children into any type of slavery – sexual or otherwise.  Awareness of the issue must also be raised. The overwhelming majority of people in the world are so opposed to these activities that they often refuse to even recognize it (and thereby admit) that it’s going on in front of them, in their communities, and in the nations.  If people refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists, then steps can’t be taken to eradicate it.

If you’d like more information on this topic or if you are seeking help to escape from sexual slavery, sexual trafficking, or sexual tourism, please visit the following.

http://www.humantrafficking.org

http://www.polarisproject.org

Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia (COSA) http://www.cosasia.org

 

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Categories: Asia, My View of Things, Thoughts, Uncategorized

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