ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies to protect sexually exploited children, continues to make important progress in raising awareness about its “Code of Conduct” program for U.S. travel companies, while gaining a major new corporate sponsor to help support its cause on a global scale.
According to Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, the organization’s Traveler Survey Report, conducted among New York City tourists recently, yielded findings substantiating that most people would strongly support travel companies that implement a tourism “Code of Conduct” to protect children at risk. With travelers demanding more accountability, the findings indicate potential repercussions for industry leaders who do not implement programs to address sex tourism crimes that plague the industry worldwide.
“ECPAT’s Code of Conduct has been signed by almost 1,000 companies around the world, but only four in the United States,” noted Smolenski. “We continue to face great challenges to reach U.S. travel companies, but it’s getting harder for them to ignore the growing evidence which proves that adopting the Code of Conduct is not just an ethical decision, it is also sound business practice.”
Meanwhile, in the past year, ethical retailer The Body Shop launched a major campaign to stop global sex trafficking by pledging a percentage of proceeds of designated products to ECPAT branches around the world and the Somaly Mam foundation. In the U.S., The Body Shop has designated sales of its Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream to ECPAT-USA.
In addition, Smolenski observed that ECPAT-USA’s TassaTag (Travelers Take Action Against Sex Slavery) program continues to gain recognition as more people purchase the luggage tags to show their support for the organization’s initiatives. The TassaTag project uses the sale of hand-woven luggage tags to raise awareness of child sex tourism.
“We hope to sell more than 5,000 luggage tags this year,” remarked Smolenski. TassaTags can be purchased at www.tassatag.org.On the policy side, ECPAT-USA continues to work with the U.S. Government to help it fulfill its international obligations and develop more accurate measurements for identifying the number of sexually exploited children in the U.S. It is also working with law enforcement and government officials to provide more services to sexually exploited children, and more efficiently identify and assist all children trafficked within the country, as well as those trafficked to the U.S. from abroad. Recently, ECPAT-USA received a grant from the U.S. State Department to help battle child trafficking practices among American tourists in Brazil.
“We believe 2009 was a watershed year for us, when ECPAT-USA was able to persuade more government and private industry leaders to put their ideas into action – but the fight is far from over. Human trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise worldwide, and it will take strong cooperation among government, private businesses and individuals to bring about measurable changes,” said Smolenski.