This week the media is abuzz with talk of sex tourism. Specifically, allegations that about twenty Secret Servicemen and military personal brought prostitutes to their hotel last Wednesday while preparing for the Summit of the Americas in Colombia. This apt-named “Summit Scandal” is scandalous not just because of the potential security threat this offered President Barak Obama, but also because of the light and publicity it sheds on sex tourism in Latin America.
While sex tourism and sex trafficking may not be one in the same, they are certainly interrelated issues that have serious consequences for hundreds of thousands of women and children worldwide. Sex tourism is where men (primarily) travel to countries with weak economic structures and high rates of exploitation of women and children for the purpose of sex. Many of the women and children purchased during sex tourism are trafficked and forced into prostitution.
Trafficking victims and prostitutes generally come from similar backgrounds. They are often impoverished or homeless with little opportunity for other work, come from areas of conflict, or have family histories of sexual abuse and violence. Children entrapped in the sex tourism industry are particularly of concern because they are most easily influenced and taken advantage of and are left with some of the most damaging scars.
The Summit Scandal reminds us that the insatiable demand for illicit sex has profound consequences. It is important for us to recognize the United States’ role in perpetuating the enslavement of women and children around the world. We are not just innocent bystanders, paternalistically trying to police trafficking with laws and codes. We are active players in the game. While the USSS is facing repercussions for their actions in Colombia, this is but one sex tourism incident of thousands each year.
With the awareness this raises about sex tourism, each person must revolt. Educate yourself, advocate online through sites like Change.org, and purchase your shoes from Shoe Revolt to support organizations helping trafficking victims. And share with us your thoughts on how to get more involved!
– Guest Post by Alison Hanson, Sustainability Manager at Handmade Expressions