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Child-protection code launched in time for World Cup

Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), the South African responsible tourism NGO, recently announced the launch of a new project to institutionalise the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct ("the Code") in South Africa. An awareness campaign is also to be run to protect children from sexual exploitation during the tournament.
In its capacity as the Local Code Representative (LCR) for South Africa, FTTSA is rolling out the initiative in partnership with funding and advisory partners UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and in collaboration with South African tourism stakeholders.

The Code, which started as a project of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes International (ECPAT International), has been developed as a Corporate Social Responsibility tool for tourism businesses and is an industry-driven, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to mobilise the tourism industry to protect children at risk of exploitation and report offenders. The Code has been endorsed by the United Nations-World Tourism Organisation (UN-WTO) and many national governments. To date, nearly 1000 companies in 35 countries have signed The Code.

Commercial sexual exploitation

The Code is now being rolled out to the South African tourism and hospitality sector as a means of raising awareness about the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in tourism and the role of The Code as a prevention and reporting tool. Tourism-related CSEC is commonly
referred to as child sex tourism (CST), which is defined as "the commercial sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another, usually from a richer country to one that is less developed and there engage in sexual acts with children."

While CST is not strongly associated with South Africa as a tourist destination, high poverty levels and growing inequality since 1994 suggest that tens of thousands of children are at risk of sexual and other forms of exploitation. Domestic as well as foreign visitors may knowingly or
unknowingly become involved in child exploitation, for example by transacting sex with an underage sex worker or buying goods from a trader exploiting child labour.

Local stakeholder mandate

FTTSA has been mandated by local stakeholders including the national departments of Social Development and Tourism, South African Tourism, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, as well as UNICEF, ILO and Childline South Africa, to drive Code implementation in South Africa. The FTTSA executive director, Jennifer Seif, is an elected member of the international board of directors of the Code International.

FTTSA hopes to welcome at least 10 leading industry players as Code signatories by June 2010. Initial signatories will be showcased at a press event in early June, linked to a wider national campaign to protect children during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Code commitments

Tourism businesses, including tour operators, hotels, travel agents, car hire companies, airlines, etc, that choose to sign the Code commit themselves to implement in their operations the following measures:

  1. Establish an ethical corporate policy regarding sexual exploitation of children.
  2. Train the personnel in the country of origin and in destinations.
  3. Introduce clauses in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of sexual exploitation of children.
  4. Provide information to travellers (eg by means of exploitation of children. Catalogues, info cards, brochures, in-flight videos, ticket slips, home pages, etc).
  5. Provide information to local "key persons" at tourism destinations.
  6. Report annually.
    According to Seif, leading hotel groups, car hire companies and other tourism businesses in South Africa are ready to embrace the Code of Conduct and play their part to protect children at risk.

    "FTTSA believes that protecting vulnerable children is a critical element of '2010 readiness' and we look forward to supporting tourism enterprises of all shapes and sizes to implement the Code," she said, adding that during the World Cup, a national campaign to protect children will be ongoing, including messages specifically targeting tourists. The national campaign is co-ordinated by UNICEF and other role-players, and aims to help prevent and report child sexual exploitation and other forms of child abuse during the event.

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