The depravity of human nature reveals itself in the most shocking way as sex tourism. This phenomenon has become a government-supported and encouraged form of personal and national income generation in many countries that exploits and abuses millions of people around the world.
Currently, almost half a million people in the Philippines specifically, and many more in other nations, work in the huge sex tourist industry that annually generates several billion US dollars. Yet, the human suffering experienced is incalculable. Millions of lives are broken, damaged, and destroyed.
The sex tourist industry is a highly organized money-making business. Behind its growth is the demand of middle-aged and older men who cannot find sexual satisfaction in their own countries and travel abroad seeking gratification with young, vulnerable and impoverished girls. These men tend to be divorced, widowed or unmarried, or isolated from their wives or partners.
Many of them have no regard for the dignity of women and young girls, seeing them as objects to be bought and used for their personal pleasure. There is no apparent concern for the victims of sex tourism.
Thousands of the exploited young women are uneducated and unwanted by their penniless families. Unless they can earn by being commercially sexually exploited, they have no value. Indeed, their sexual commoditization is their only value. Their human dignity, importance, and rights are totally disregarded.
The worth of these women is lessened by the vast sums of money generated by sex tourism for politicians and tycoons. The police are in on the game, too. The sole motive is the satisfaction of their greed, selfishness and depravity. Many also have their own young, underage mistresses and sex slaves.
The human cost is enormous. The dignity of the victims is violated, their rights to a decent life, to education and a career, are all denied them.
A nation that sells its young people to tourists, domestic and international, is despicable. It is a tarnished, corrupt society that allows the domination of the lives of millions of vulnerable young people worldwide.
Sex tourism is not really tourism. It is really a form of modern sex slavery as the perpetrators and wrong-doers exploit the young. The abusive encounters between sex tourists and young women are truthfully more about power, control, and domination, manifesting a sadistic desire to own and abuse the lives of another. Such ascendency by a sex tourist over a weaker person may be compensation for his or her own inner character weakness. Perhaps, it makes up for feelings of being rejected in their own families or communities. Whatever its source, the abuse is criminal behaviour and everyone who abuses a woman or a minor ought to be brought to justice.
The extreme poverty of the families out of which these young women come is undoubtedly the reason for their involvement in the sex tourism industry. Without resources, access to education is slim and so, these rural or slum-dwelling women are compelled to do anything to earn money for food. It is about survival, it is about staying alive.
Like hunter-gatherers, from dawn to dusk, they scavenge for money, or anyway else they can lay their hands on, to get enough to buy a cup of rice and some vegetables or eat pagpag, the re-cooked scrapings from the plates of restaurants.
Minors in the sex tourist industry are oftentimes victims of sexual abuse in their own home: abused by relatives, neighbours or even their own biological fathers. These young girls have no alternative but to run away for their own survival. Their available choices are to be on the streets or to go with a “recruiter.” Once under the power of the sex tourism recruiter-who provides money, food and accommodation-they are sold to brothels, sex bars or clubs in the neon-lit sex strips of cities from Johannesburg to London to Manila. There is no end to their exploitation.
Not only are the Philippines, South Africa or the mega-brothels of Europe notorious for sex tourism and the human destruction it brings with it, these governments and societies must be held responsible for the pain and hardship that afflict the lives of the youth, many of them underage children. Sex tourism has created a wonderland of child sex, aided and abetted by the societies that are supposed to protect and nurture these children.
Sex tourism destroys the purpose and fabric of society. The dignity of women, youth and children is downgraded by the people who operate and allow the sex tourist industry to thrive and grow. They see the young as bodies for sale. They do not treat them as individual persons with hearts and souls, feelings, ambitions and hopes for a brighter, happier future.
The traffickers are human traders who broker lives and sell them to whoever is willing to pay a large sum to rape and abuse a child in a hotel room, without fear of retribution or responsibility to the law or human dignity.
Impunity is the attraction. Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines and in other countries, yet it thrives. The sex bars and clubs are protected by police and politicians, many of whom are club owners themselves.
Once, I went to rescue some children trapped in debt bondage in a tourist hotel frequented by foreign sex tourists. Posing as a customer, I asked the manager in a quiet undertone, nodding towards a small stage where six teenagers each clad in a tiny bikini were gyrating in a languid manner on a pole: “Is it safe here to have one of those young girls?” “Oh sir,” the manager answered, “you don’t have to worry, here you are completely safe and protected”. “Oh really? “Why is that so?” I answered. “But this place is owned by a police officer,” he said. The system is corrupt in its exploitation of young women.
People tend to blame the young girls for being lured into the dirty business of exploitation and abuse but it is the apathy and indifference of the public that is past of the exploitation. There is no church or public outcry against it. It is tolerated and thousands of young people suffer, lives destroyed and a once proud nation is prostituted.
By Fr Shay Cullen