As expats, we are no strangers to travel; it’s an ever-present part of our lives, the face of Thailand and the world. Unfortunately, the rapid growth of this industry and the infrastructure that supports it has not been adequately matched by a growth in measures for child protection, in particular the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT). In places like hotels, airports, tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, massage parlours and even on the street in plain view, children are at risk. There is no typical offender. They can be foreign, as well as coming from the same country or region. Travelling child sex offenders take advantage of poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability to abuse and exploit, they can seek access to children through volunteerism or other positions that give access to children. The good news is, civil society organisations are increasingly teaming up with the private sector to raise awareness and build capacity to eliminate this crime.
This means that your travel choices can in fact help to protect children. They may already have. If you’ve stayed in a Sofitel, Marriott or Dusit hotel in Thailand, arranged a trip through Carlson, TourAsia or 333Travel, flown with American or Delta Airlines, or even travelled in an Uber in the USA, you have actively supported travel and tourism companies which uphold the highest commitment to child protection. These companies, and over 300 others like them, are all members of The Code.For over 20 years, The Code has been partnering with travel and tourism companies across the world to ensure a zero-tolerance policy towards the sexual exploitation of children. The Code is based in Bangkok, working closely with ECPAT International; the leading network of civil society organisations that is focused on ending the sexual exploitation of children worldwide. Thanks to The Code, over 960,000 staff members in the travel and tourism industry have been trained to effectively detect and report any instances of human trafficking and child exploitation they encounter. By becoming members of The Code, companies take on an active commitment to implement the six criteria:
Staff who have been trained by The Code frequently report feeling more aware and more empowered to deal with potential cases of SECTT they encounter. The Code’s e-learning modules help to train staff throughout the travel and tourism industry, whether they are front-of-house staff, managers, cleaning and maintenance, security, airline attendants, truck and taxi drivers, or many more. E-learning and direct training explain the nature of the crime, what staff should look out for and where to report suspicious behaviour. In addition, the fourth of The Code’s six criteria states that companies shall inform travellers of children’s rights and how to report and prevent SECTT. You are in safe hands!
This confidence shouldn’t just rest with you as travellers. As a result of their Code training, hospitality staff in Phuket reported feeling far more assured when demanding adult guests to present identification of accompanied children. Airline Ambassadors’ membership of The Code has enabled them to work with AirAsia staff operating in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and train them on trafficking awareness and response, making it far less easy for vulnerable children to be taken away from home. These are just two of many examples of how The Code is creating a growing network of responsible companies, professionals and consequently travellers who can take a stand against the sexual exploitation of children.
A quick way to check whether a company is a member of The Code, is to look for the Code Logo at the front desk of a hotel or agency, on their website, or on www.thecode.org.
So, what can you do?
We need as many eyes, ears and voices on board as possible. If you work in the travel and tourism industry, your company can also become a member of The Code. Get in contact! Fill in an application form on http://www.thecode.org/join/ If you are travelling in Thailand, and you see or suspect child sexual exploitation report it immediately by calling 1300 (24 hour hotline) or 062 260 8465 (ECPAT Foundation, in Chiang Rai). Be a responsible traveller, know how to report in other countries, https://www.ecpat.org/what-we-do/report-child-exploitation/