Understanding Child Sex Tourism

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a term that describes the sexual abuse of a minor in exchange for cash or other compensation, given either directly to the child or to a third party. Child victims are treated as sexual and commercial objects to facilitate the generation of profit. Currently, the International Labour Organisation [ILO] estimated that human traffickers generate an annual profit of an estimated US$32 billion from the buying and selling of its victims.

A sensitive issue, CSEC is often ignored or under reported. However, the commercial sexual exploitation of children remains a serious crime, perpetrated against victims who are under 18 years old.

Child Sex Toursim

As the illustration above suggests, there are several different forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children [CSEC]. The Code focuses on the kinds of CSEC that relate to the travel and tourism industry. Specifically, ‘child sex tourism’ refers to acts perpetrated by those who are traveling or using their status as tourists in order to sexually exploit children. It is considered to be a sub-type of child prostitution with clear links to the tourism industry.

Many child sex tourists are domestic travelers within their own country of residence. However, they can also be international tourists. Some international tourists visit countries with an explicit desire to engage in child sex exploitation, while others decide on the spur of the moment.  The one thing that these different types of offenders have in common is that they all UTILISE the tourism industry and infrastructure in order to contact children at that destination. This is one reason why it is so important for tourism companies to be proactive about combating child sex exploitation.


Cause & Factors 

Contrary to popular belief, poverty is not the main cause of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Although many exploited children are seeking financial security and trying to survive on their own, there are several other key factors that also contribute to the prevalence of child sex exploitation.

One huge factor that fuels sexual crimes against children is the DEMAND for sexual contact with children. Opportunistic individuals and organized criminals take advantage of the demand for child sex by generating a constant SUPPLY of vulnerable children. They identify potential victims and bring the supply to the demand, creating a veritable child sex market. As a result, vulnerable and victimized children become a means of massive profit generation for these opportunists.


Who are the Child Sex Tourists

Another misconception is that all child sex tourists are pedophiles when, in reality, the majority of child sex tourists are what is known as “situational child sex tourists.”

Pedophiles are defined as individuals who have a clinical disorder characterized by an exclusive sexual inclination for pre-pubescent children (girls or boys), usually 12 years old and younger.

On the other hand, “situational child sex tourists” abuse children as a means of experimentation. They do this because they feel protected by the sense of anonymity and impunity that comes with being a tourist. Unlike pedophiles, these tourists DO NOT exclusively prefer children — instead, they interact indiscriminately with a variety of sex partners, including those under 18 years of age if the opportunity presents itself. Because organized criminals have created a thriving underaged sex market, situational child sex tourists find many opportunities to engage in illicit acts with minors.

Again, offenders can be both local and foreign persons, a man or a woman, from different age groups and social backgrounds.



  • Recruiters
  • Traffickers
  • Pimps
  • “Mama-san”/Brothel owner

The offenders on ‘supply’ side are usually family members, including parents, friends, lovers, or trusted acquaintance. They all act in a way to deceive, manipulate, trick children into sexual exploitation in order to gain PROFIT. They usually use violence, blackmail and drugs to control children.

  • Child Sex Tourist 
    Situational – indiscriminate sex tourist
  • Paedophile
    Exclusive sexual inclination for pre-pubescent children; clinical disorder.
  • Travelling Child Sex Offender
    Already has a criminal record for sexual abuse or exploitation of children in home country but are able to travel abroad. 


Impact & Consequences

Child survivors of exploitation must carry with them the trauma of having suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse. That trauma has a negative impact on the child’s physical, mental and emotional health. Physical risks include poor health, unwanted pregnancies for girls and a greater likelihood of HIV infection among both male and female victims of child sex exploitation.

Psychological trauma also contributes to problematic behavior and trust issues, which have an impact on the child’s ability to reintegrate back into society. As a result, the majority of child survivors have substance abuse problems as they turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope with their pain. Many will have suicidal thoughts and tendencies throughout the course of their lives because they feel unloved, ashamed and worthless.