If you Google "child sex tourism," you'll read about those who travel abroad to have sex with children, some as young as five. An estimated 2 million children worldwide are prostituted annually. US federal statutes prohibit sex trafficking and sex tourism so those caught may face up to life in prison, as one quarter of all sex tourists are Americans.
These same laws target those caught arranging sex tours to places like Thailand, Costa Rica and Brazil.
This Monday, September 15, travel agent Phil MarstellerÂ will sign the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.Â And he explain why: "I want to fight this cancer that is ruining not only my industry but the lives of those living in the land that I love."
Marsteller grew up in the jungles of northern Brazil as he worked alongside his missionary parents until he was 19. "I taught my friends to fly kites and they taught me to hunt and fish in the jungle," he said. "In 1992, I started Amazon Tours so I could take people fishing for Peacock Bass on the third largest river in the world, the Rio Negro. I also wanted to give back to those who had given so much to me and my family."
"In 1999, I began seeing other fishing tour operators illegally taking their clients into the Indian reservations so they could pick out their own girls, some as young as 12 and 13," Phil explained.
"I saw young girls wearing skimpy bathing suits in the fishing boats with the American tourists as they drank and fished. As things got worse, I knew that I had to do something and began learning about those who fight to protect these children from lives of ruin."
In an effort to fight child sex tourism, Marsteller, on behalf of Amazon Tours, will be signing The Code of Conduct at the Church Center for the United Nations. The signing ceremony is sponsored by the U.S. office of the End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes or ECPAT, the NGO Committee on UNICEF and The Code.
Speakers include Frederico Silva da Costa, Brazil National Secretary for Tourism Development, Carol Smolenski, Executive Director, ECPAT – USA and representatives from UNICEF and the U.S. State Department.
The Code of Conduct consists of six criteria adopted by suppliers of tourism services who pledge: 1) To establish an ethical policy regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children. 2) To train personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations. 3) To introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial exploitation of children. 4) To provide information to travelers by means of catalogs, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc. 5) To provide information to local "key persons" at the destinations. 6) To report annually.
You can visit Marsteller's Rio Negro Foundation at www.rionegrofoundation.org to learn about the medical/dental clinic, school and research facility built by Phil and his wife Ruth. The research facility is used for cooperative projects including the Peacock Bass Project, the Amazon Turtle Project and the study of Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Rio Negro Basin. You can learn more about ECPAT USA at www.ecpat-usa.org.