Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, previously known as child sex tourism, is a notorious, but well-known phenomenon, especially in countries where many families live in social and economic vulnerability. Perpetrators often take advantage of these vulnerabilities by offering money, food, clothing or housing in exchange for sex. Others travel to countries where they can hide behind weak legislation and focus on finding children without caring/responsible adults around them that they can abuse. People who act on a sexual attraction towards children are called preferential perpetrators.
Perpetrators find new ways of approaching children
International and local campaigns and efforts against sexual exploitation in travel and tourism have in recent years made it more difficult for perpetrators to get in contact with children at risk. However, preferential perpetrators who plan the abuse in advance have changed their approach and adapted new methods to get in contact with children. For example, they might settle permanently or for a certain period of time in targeted countries. Another method is to exploit children through live-streamed sexual abuse, where the perpetrator remotely orders and directs the abuse, which is carried out by somebody else – often a close relative to the child, who is paid by the perpetrator.
Legal advice and support in legal processes
Childhood cooperates with APLE Cambodia to identify perpetrators and abused children. With our support APLE works actively to stop the perpetrators and to ensure exposed children help and treatment. For example, a social worker is on site when the police rescue children from an abusive situation and the APLE team provides psychosocial support, legal advice and they assist during a legal process. Without the right support to the family, the child might be blamed for what has happened. There are also extensive examples of families being threatened or bribed to withdraw their testimonies. To ensure that the children receive support from their relatives, the team works actively to increase non-offending family member’s knowledge about abuse and the possible consequences for the children. Childhood’s support also enables the training of and cooperation with police, lawyers and judges to ensure that the trial performed in a child-friendly and respectful manner.
To be met with respect – crucial for children’s recovery
APLE is unique and their efforts have gained international recognition. They have made a clear imprint in the Cambodian judicial system. When children have been abused, today, they can receive professional, child-friendly and respectful treatment, which is crucial for their recovery and processing of the abuse. Thanks to the work of APLE Cambodia, a large number of foreign perpetrators have been prosecuted and imprisoned in their home countries for sexual abuse of children in Cambodia.
Photo: Britta Holmberg