The Justice Department is investigating reports that United States “sex tour” businesses are sending people overseas to have sex with children in violation of a 1994 law. The legislation bans travel with the intent of having sex with minors with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Tour companies are offering tours of Southeast Asia and Latin America, where men are taken to red-light districts or brothels. Tour operators claim that clientele range from attorneys and school board members to clergy. Last year, New York-based women’s rights group Equality Now urged 2,500 of its affiliates to petition the government to stop sex tours and “expose this systematic exploitation of girls and women.”
Ken Franzblau of Equality Now said, “The women are basically a commodity … You don’t know how they wind up in these circumstances.” He also noted that many of the companies deny the threat of AIDs or STDs, “I was told that the number of AIDs cases in Thailand is intentionally overblown … by international health organizations to obtain increased funding.”
Carol Smolenski, an End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, U.S.A., coordinator, interviewed some American tourists and was shocked. Smolenski said, “some of the men just believe that it’s sort of a different class of human beings.”