“Sex tourism” is defined as travel planned specifically for the purpose of sex, generally to a country where prostitution is legal. However, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are more common among prostitutes. Sex tourism also supports human trafficking, one of the largest criminal industries in the world.
Even if prostitution is legal in a country, human trafficking, sex with a minor, and child pornography are always crimes. Someone who engages in these activities in a foreign country can still be prosecuted under US law after returning to the United States.
Although the age at which someone is considered a minor may vary by country, federal law makes it a crime for US residents to engage in sexual or pornographic activities with a child younger than 18 years anywhere in the world. It is also illegal to travel abroad for the purpose of having sex with a minor.
Nearly 2 million children around the world are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Children abused by sex tourists suffer not only sexual abuse but also poverty, homelessness, and physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. They suffer from health problems including illnesses, addictions, malnourishment, infections, injuries, and STDs. For ways that you can help, see “20 Ways You Can Fight Human Trafficking.”