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Press releases archive


No country immune to child sexual exploitation, study finds

12 May 2016

ECPAT global studyMore children are at risk of sexual exploitation than ever before, particularly in travel and tourism, a two-year global study by ECPAT has revealed today. 

The report, entitled Offenders on the Move: Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism 2016, has found that an increase in global tourism and improved accessibility of information technology have escalated the threat of sexual exploitation in every country in the world.

Children in the UK and Europe, long seen as source countries for travelling child sex offenders, have also experienced an increased risk of sexual abuse by foreign and in-country travelling offenders.

The study cites more than 60 reports from around the world on regional trends and institutional responses, building one of the most comprehensive analyses of sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. It notes that persistent power imbalances, corporate travel culture, community-based tourism, weak child protection commitments and institutional silence have fuelled the risks posed to children by travelling offenders, whether “situational” or “preferential”. 

Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, Chair of the High-Level Task Force for the Global Study on the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, said: “We must all share the burden of ending sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. It is a moral obligation to act now to protect all children from this shocking crime wherever they are.”

In the last 20 years international tourist arrivals have grown from 527 million to 1.135 billion annually, providing significant financial gain for most of those involved. Even the most remote parts of the planet are now visited. Yet, with this increase in global travel comes greater risk for children.

The Study reveals that: 

  • There is no typical offender; they are tourists, business travellers, migrant & transient workers, expats or civil society volunteers
  • Travelling child sex offenders are usually from the region or country where the offense takes place
  • The internet and mobile technology have fuelled the increase in SECTT by creating new pathways for exploitation and reinforcing anonymity of offenders
  • Most child sex offenders did not plan the crime, they commit because there is an opportunity and they feel they can get away with it
  • No child is immune and victims are not only poor. Some are more vulnerable than others, such as marginalised children, including minorities, street children, and LGBT
  • Services for victims remain inadequate
  • Enforcement and prosecution of offenders is hindered by a lack of coordination and information sharing between authorities
  • There are alarmingly low conviction rates for the sexual exploitation of children, which means the majority of offenders evade justice

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK, said: “ECPAT UK has monitored and taken action on hundreds of cases involving travelling British offenders abusing children in countries as diverse as Spain, Kenya and Cambodia. What sadly links these together is the staggeringly low conviction rates by the British government of the offenders they fail to monitor and prevent from travelling to abuse children or targeting children for abuse online. By 2013, only two criminal cases were brought against UK nationals who commit child sexual exploitation abroad. This is indefensible. Tackling these heinous abuses seems to have fallen off the UK Government’s agenda – this study shows it is imperative that the UK redoubles its efforts and demonstrates political leadership to protect these vulnerable children.”


For press enquiries, please contact Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK, 07402 113985, or Ryan Mahan, Head of Information and Campaigns, ECPAT UK, 020 7607 2136.

About the Global Study 

The Global Study was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through ECPAT – Defence for Children in the Netherlands. 

For more information and access to the full study, visit the Global Study website:

The overall organisational funding support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and Oak Foundation to ECPAT International made it possible to initiate and coordinate the Global Study.

The Global Study involved 70+ contributors from the public and private sectors. It was guided by a High-Level Taskforce, with members drawn from a wide range of expertise and backgrounds, including governmental, non-governmental and the private sector. The Taskforce provided oversight for the Global Study and advice on recommendations to support evidence-based action to combat SECTT. Members of the taskforce also advocate, each within their own sector, for widespread endorsement of the Global Study recommendations. Members of the Taskforce are:  

  • Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, Chair, Former Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • Ernie Allen, Former President and CEO of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), USA
  • Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Former Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson, a global travel and hospitality company, headquartered in Minneapolis, USA
  • Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children, The Netherlands
  • Milena Grillo, Executive Director of Fundación Paniamor, Costa Rica (ECPAT Representative)
  • Dr. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) 
  • Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) based in Madrid
  • Jean-Cyril Spinetta, Former Chief Executive Officer of Air France-KLM SA

Copyright © ECPAT UK 2015.

Charity number: 1104948. Company Ltd by Guarantee: 5061385.
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Tel: 020 7607 2136. Fax: 020 7700 5435.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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