The term “sex tourism” describes the practice of traveling abroad to engage in sexual activity. In most cases, sexual activity is commercial and involves prostitution. The term had become popular when international tourism became affordable. However, several social issues arise from capitalization on this type of tourism. The term “sex tourism” is controversial, but not more common than people perceive.
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The term “sex tourism” is often applied to men visiting developing countries to have sex. It is often seen as a controversial activity due to the illegal status of prostitution in most countries. However, in countries that allow prostitution, it does not have the same stigma. One destination that became popular with sex tourists is the coast of Kenya. The majority of the tourists are older men, which makes them desired clients for the local sex workers. A study of the phenomenon in the Mombasa area has revealed that the primary reason for choosing this type of job laid in the desire for a better life that supposedly only can be provided by a white foreigner. The competition in the area is very high, leading to sex workers employing a wide variety of tactics to gain an advantage, including seeking the help of witchcraft and supernatural powers (Omondi and Ryan 217).
Another reason for the stigma around the term might come from the association with child prostitution. A major effort has been seen from the international community to combat this issue. Although such offenses are present in Australia, the United Kingdom, and other Western countries, the most prominent area for this activity in Southeast Asia. This area cannot prosecute this crime in a lot of cases. However, a recent study of the issue found that this issue could be addressed through a partnership between international and local law enforcement agencies (Curley 283). Despite these efforts, the issue is still not solved, and therefore the association of the term is not likely to disappear.
Even though the term “sex tourism” is predominately applied to men, women have also been involved in this activity. A study on the female trends in sex tourism over the years reveals that a large number of historical records of such activities exist. Surprisingly, the nature and types of trips are often quite similar. However, female sex tourism is often referred to as “romance tourism” due to the possibility of women seeking relationships in a foreign country, rather than just sex. This study argues that due to the nature of tourism, the term “sex tourism” should be applied to both sexes (Bauer 20).
“Sex tourism” is often a controversial term due to the illegal status of prostitution in most countries. However, outside of child prostitution, its nature is relatively harmless. Despite the activity being common to both men and women, the term usually refers to men. Hopefully, in the future, an effective solution will be created to the issue of child exploitation, either through the changes in local policies, or actions from the international crime prevention organizations. Then this term would lose a lot of negative connotations.
Bauer, Irmgard L. “Romance Tourism or Female Sex Tourism?.” Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, vol. 12, no. 1, 2014, pp. 20-28.
Curley, Melissa. “Combating Child Sex Tourism in South-East Asia: Law Enforcement Cooperation and Civil Society Partnerships.” Journal of Law and Society, vol. 41, no. 2, 2014, pp. 283-314.
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Omondi, Rose Kisia, and Chris Ryan. “Sex Tourism: Romantic Safaris, Prayers and Witchcraft at the Kenyan Coast.” Tourism Management, vol. 58, 2017, pp. 217-227.