In December Henriette, Nader and I got the chance to participate at an ECPAT workshop, which was hold at Cologne Business School. Child prostitution is a very important but above all shocking topic. Especially in the tourism context, it should not be underestimated as it is omnipresent in many tourist destinations.
The abbreviation ECPAT stands for End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. It is an organization that actively raises awareness for this issue and works against it. Jana Schrempp from ECPAT and Manfred Kaltwasser from BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany) jointly held the workshop and gave us different insights into this topic.
The UN Convention for the Right of the Child, among others, defines on an international level, that every person under 18 years is a child and thus is in particular need of protection. Since 1989 almost all countries worldwide, except of two countries, signed and ratified the convention. Unfortunately, it seems that some countries only ratified the convention in order to appear in a better light that polishes its country’s image or due to social desirability. In various destinations child prostitution is a booming business. It should not be overseen that tourism plays a crucial role in this context, as in some destinations the business with child prostitution encountered an upswing along with increasing tourist numbers.
The International Labour Organisation counts child prostitution to one of the worst forms of child labour. It is not only morally reprehensible, but it also endangers the child on a social, psychological and physical level and thus leads to a fatal interference of the normal development of a child.
Manfred Kaltwasser from BKA admitted that they register successful prosecutions, also on an international level; however, the number of convicted perpetrators is still too low. For many reasons international prosecutions are complicated. He illustrated this with an example from Sri Lanka. The BKA identified a German perpetrator in Sri Lanka. When they informed the local authorities, the police arrested the child and sentenced it of prostitution. The perpetrator however did not bear any consequences. Unfortunately, this does not represent a singular case.
A fact: Child prostitution is illegal. The most pressing question during this workshop was: What can be done against it or what can each individual do? What can tourism stakeholders do?
We were thinking about these questions and jointly brought some ideas to light regarding what can be done in order to create awareness for that topic and counteract it. Different ideas were named, including staff training, “informal” penalties, support of local projects, raise awareness and inform.
In order to approach this disconcerting topic, it is very important to look further into it and to talk about it; raising awareness to the tourism stakeholders as well as to the tourists themselves. They need to be informed about child prostitution and what to do when observing such a scene. Air France collaborated with ECPAT and they produced a short film that is shown to Air France’s passengers before takeoff. This is a good possibility and a good example for how to effectively raise awareness.