A sex worker smokes a cigarette at an undisclosed location. STRINGER / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
In the past, child sex tourism involved Western men traveling to South East Asia or Latin America to have sex with poor children, said Ernie Allen, a member of the task force that oversaw a new global study on sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism.
See also: Global Child Sex Tourism Rising, Thwarting Efforts to Fight It
“Today, Canada and the United States and Europe aren’t just producing the sex tourists, we’re also destination countries,” Allen added.
Montreal is one of the destination cities cited in the study, made public Thursday. It was produced by Thailand-based ECPAT International, which works to end child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
“Sex has long been a trademark of Montreal tourism,” the study notes, suggesting the city is “tolerant of the sex industry with its abundance of strip clubs, escort services and massage parlours.”
The study refers to increased prostitution, some of it involving minors, during the annual Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. It cites information from Longueuil’s Mobilis project, which targets street gangs and their prostitution-related activities.
“During (the Grand Prix) weekend, many adolescent girls run away from youth centres from a few days up to a week, because their traffickers need them to cater to tourist demand,” the study notes. As young as 14, many of the girls are threatened, beaten up and enslaved.
“These are hub cities, magnet cities where people go for sporting events, for conventions, for trade shows.”
Those who exploit the girls target places where there are “a lot of men there who are drinking and away from home, they are targeting situational offenders. These are people who travel to a location for another purpose and while there encounter a situation where there’s an opportunity to have sex with a child and they do it.”
The sexual exploitation of children has increased due to a dramatic increase in travel and tourism over the past 20 years, according to the report.
The Internet has exacerbated the problem by “making it more anonymous and reducing the risk,” Allen said.
“Today, those who are selling a child for sex can do it via one of these Internet advertising sites. The purchaser doesn’t have to go to a city street. He can shop online for a child for sex from the safety of his home or hotel room. For the exploiter, the risk is also far less.”