Americans who think that participating in the sexual exploitation of children overseas does not carry any legal consequences better think again. This is the message World Vision, the U.S. State Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a Costa Rican cabinet minister wants to make clear through a global campaign targeting Americans who engage in the “sex trade” in foreign countries.
The Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project officially launched on Oct. 12 and billboards and road signs with deterrent messages have already been posted up in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Thailand and the United States. With $500,000 in contributions from the U.S. Department of State, television commercials, print ads, and internet banners are also being used to warn potential sex tourists.
One ad features a picture of the top half of a child’s face with the message: “I am a not a tourist attraction. It’s a crime to make me one. Stop child sex tourism.”
This is the first U.S. Government grant ever issued for a project specifically addressing this issue, according to World Vision’s Web site explaining the media campaign (www.stopchildtourism.org).
It is estimated that around that travelers from the United States make up 25 percent of "child sex tourists" worldwide and as high as 80 percent in some Latin American countries. Under the Protect Act of 2003, United States citizens or residents who engage in sexual activity abroad with a child under 18 can face 30 years in a U.S. prison.
Prevention is only part of World Vision’s strategy to combat child sex tourism. The Christian relief organization is also working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement to bring prosecute offenders.