Pastoral Congress Urges Action to Halt Sex Tourism

Final Document From Bangkok Event Is Published

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Children trapped in the sex-tourism trade must not criminalized, says the final document of the 6th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism.



The congress held earlier this month in Bangkok, Thailand, was organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers in collaboration with the Thai bishops' Commission on Tourism. Its theme was "Tourism at the Service of Bringing People Together."

The final document underscores that the World Tourism Organization's approved "Global Code of Ethics for Tourism" has "already inspired the legislation of some countries and is still to be implemented in others," the Vatican Information Service reported today.

Particular attention was paid to suggestions on battling the scourge of "sex tourism."

The congress also noted that "the pastoral ministry for tourism should not forget the importance of solidarity with the disadvantaged and the poor, giving special consideration to the consequences of poverty for their family lives."

Among the congress's 16 recommendations, it called on governments to make higher allocations for the moral and human formation of people engaged in tourism.

It called for promotion of the awareness that tourism is a powerful instrument for bringing about justice and peace and a true encounter of peoples.

The congress further urged that travel agencies, airlines and hotels inform their clients about child victims of prostitution and the legal penalties for getting involved with sex tourism involving children.

"During the congress it was stressed that tourism, which has now become a social and economic phenomenon of global dimensions, should contribute to bringing together nations and cultures," the final document states.

It called for efforts against "all forms of discrimination and exploitation or, worst still, of sexual violence in relation to women and minors."

Among those who are exploited are "the most vulnerable and in urgent need of proper care are certainly, women, minors and children," the congress concluded.

Among its remaining recommendations the congress urged "that compassion, legal protection and the restoration of their human rights must be given to children" caught in the situation of sex tourism.

"The child must not be criminalized in cases where the contents of the Convention of the Rights of the Child have been violated, as in the case of sexual abuse," it added.

Further, the document urges "that state authorities give priority and urgency to counteracting trafficking and the economic exploitation especially of children in sex tourism."

Also, it suggested that "State institutions intensify the implementation of laws that protect children from sexual exploitation in tourism and bring to justice the offenders through intensive, coordinated and consistent efforts at all levels of society, and in collaboration with international organizations."

The final document also urged that "dioceses and communities concerned give due pastoral care to children exploited for sexual purposes in the tourist industry, ... [and] establish structures for the pastoral care of exploited children as an important aspect of their mission of evangelization."

Dioceses and communities are also encouraged to "support existing means of apostolate, or establish new ones, that will care for the victims with compassion and love and provide legal assistance, therapy and reintegration into society and, where Christians are involved, into the faith community."