Adopting “The Code” to Combat Child Sex Tourism

As I traveled to Hawaii this past week on American Airlines, I thought about part of a previous post I wrote about on international airlines showing anti-slavery PSA announcements in-flight to fight child sex tourism.  I could not help but to think again about the important difference it would make in ending modern day slavery if U.S.-based airlines and tourism agencies began implementing similar awareness campaigns—particularly in places like Hawaii where tourism and the military make up 2/3 of the economy, according to one of my travel guides.  As I had mentioned in earlier posts, tourists and servicemen make up a significant proportion of individuals who buy sex.

Upon my arrival back to Florida, I began catching up on recent news that I had missed and came across two articles that totally caught my eye—one related to Hawaii’s push for tougher legislation regarding sex trafficking and one about Delta airlines taking proactive attempts at ending modern day slavery, specifically in regards to child sex tourism.  I nearly fell off my couch from excitement (or possibly due to jet lag exhaustion)!  Either way, I could not help but to feel a sense of enthusiasm.

Delta Air Lines signed the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism—also known as “The Code”—becoming the 1st U.S. airline to make this huge and honorable commitment.  Agencies adopting The Code are expected to follow “The Six Criteria:”

1. Establish ethical policy and procedures to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC)
2. Train personnel in both origin and destination countries on CSEC
3. Present a clause in contracts with suppliers that states a mutual rejection of CSEC
4. Provide information to travellers about CSEC by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc.
5. Provide information to local “key persons” at the destinations
6. Report annually

Delta has made a groundbreaking initiative in the fight against modern day slavery, particularly within the travel and tourism industry.  They are being great role models in regards to exercising social responsibility in the industry, setting a great example for their counterparts to follow.  Airline personnel and passengers can play a huge role in identifying prospective buyers, traffickers, and victims and bringing about justice through reporting their findings.  Furthermore, they play a key role in preventative measures by educating travelers on the realities of modern day slavery, providing them with information on how they can report any signs of exploitation, and scare the wits out of sex buyers by making it known that all eyes are on them.  U.S. airlines have been used as trafficking routes into the U.S. by traffickers due to the known unawareness and inaction of personnel in the past.  With Delta’s recent actions and as more airlines jump on board, I am confident that there will be a decrease in transnational and domestic trafficking.

Idealistically, Delta’s lead in signing The Code will not only advance the commitment of other airlines, but also of other types of travel and tourism agencies.  According to The Code website, very few U.S. agencies (travel/tourism industry and non-industry) have become involved with implementing the initiative.  The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), Carlson (consisting of Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Park Inn, Park Plaza, T.G.I. Fridays, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel), Amazon Tours, Hilton Worldwide, and Delta airlines are the only travel/tourism agencies currently listed as pioneers in combating child sex tourism in the U.S.  There are many U.S. travel and tourism agencies that thrive in various regions of the U.S. including places like Hawaii, Florida, California, New York, and so forth.  Even if 50% of the hotels and tourism agencies in the most popular U.S. travel destinations across the country adopted The Code, imagine the positive impact it could make in reducing child sex tourism.

I live in South Florida where tourism thrives, as does the commercial sexual exploitation of children.  I have seen with my eyes the deceptive nature of some hotels that actively engage in trafficking practices, allowing for exploited individuals to be harbored in their rooms against their will.  If larger hotel corporations signed The Code and held employees and themselves accountable for protecting the welfare of exploited children, there would be fewer places for traffickers to hide their victims.  There would be fewer johns knowing where to go to find victims.  There would be more public education regarding the realities of the issue and an increase in public action.  Let’s all support the agencies that currently adopt the initiative and encourage those who don’t to do so immediately.

Cynthia Castaldo-Walsh is a Program and Research Intern with the SISGI Group focused on gender-based conflict, non-violence and peacebuilding for conflict transformation, and sustainability for conflict resolution.

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