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Background Guide

General Assembly III

Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs


Legal, Cultural and Politico-Economic

Dimensions of Sex Tourism

Letter from the Executive Board

Dear Delegates,
It is our privilege to be presiding over the General Assembly 3rd Committee Social,
Cultural & Humanitarian (SOCHUM) discussing Legal, Cultural and Politico-Economic
Dimensions of Sex Tourism. There are a couple of aspects that we would want you to be
careful about while tackling this agenda. First, the mandate of this committee distinguishes
the scope of the debate and the nature or characterization of it from the UN Human Rights
Council. The evolution of the interrelated dimensions, thus, needs to broadly adhere to the
General Assembly paradigm.
Second, the issue does not demand necessarily a polarization of the countries views;
therefore, it is a sincere request to go beyond the arguments of whether to legalize sex
tourism or not. Multi-layered analysis on causes of impediment to legal structures,
implementation failures, cultural code of conduct and economic advantages are now
required to be looked into. Discussion on such issues will fasten the momentum of the
committee in order to arrive at an efficient document towards the end.
Third, possession of a genuine sense of the importance of constructive debate in a
committee like General Assembly will be highly appreciated. The needs are of
collaboration, cooperation and comprehensive solution-oriented approach; misbehaviour
in committee over an issue as sensitive as this will be looked down upon and will result in
serious repercussions, the least of which being negative- marking under diplomatic
courtesy. Our past experiences with similar topic areas have been low on competence as far
as the debate over moral injunctions go. The Background Guide, therefore, has been
written, keeping in mind the debate on all the three sides in favour of, against, and limited
provisions but with overall moral questions all the three sides posit. Achieving objectivity
at the cost of sensitivity and empathetic understanding is not something this Bench wanted
to encourage.
Fourth, contents of this document aim to provide an overview of the subject and at no
juncture, attempt to restrict the scope of the debate. In fact, links on crimes associated with
the issue have been listed towards the end for reference purposes. We did not want to
elaborate on the strands which have already witnessed an outcome in the form of a
Resolution in the United Nations. We are confident that you will be aware of these already,
or will attempt to cover it in your personal research.
We hope to have an enriching experience through the medium of this conference. In case of
any doubts/queries/discrepancies, feel free to contact the undersigned.
Syeda Asia

Hisham Ahmed Rizvi


Akriti Bhatia

For the Mandate of the Committee, visit:

Note: This document and the resource links it attempts to provide are strictly for
analytical/reference purposes. Under no circumstances can these be quoted as recognized
or listed facts.

Inequalities between distinct social groups contribute in important ways to the initiation and
perpetuation of prejudice, discrimination and systematic exploitation. An individuals
experiences with social ordering may represent a formative encounter with social relations
that are hierarchical in nature and affect the individuals personal choices of occupation and
lifestyle. Gender, in this case, plays a part by providing men, women and the self-identified
others with a set of complementary roles through integration in society. These roles are both
instrumental and expressive, and are learnt through the process of socialization. However,
increasing inequity in the way role expectations and fulfilment of gender have been perceived,
which has been further aggravated by rampant occurrences of violent acts, has stirred an
important debate discussing the importance of change, expansion of human choice,
elimination of forms of stratification and promotion of sexual autonomy. In the struggles that
either of the sexes partake in the prevalence of the phenomenon of sex tourism, movements of
resistance and confrontation have been significant in opening up political discussions over the
role of societal norms, religion and excessive individuation. Objectification or
commercialization of human life associated with such professions has taken shape of a global
issue. It demands attention and systematic engagement within the purview of considerations
over dignity and integrity associated with human agency.
Key Terms
Gender: The personal traits and social positions that members of a society attach to
being female or male.
Gender stratification: The unequal distribution of wealth, power, and privilege
between men and women
Sexism: The belief that one sex is innately superior to the other.
Gender roles: attitudes and activities that a society links to each sex.
Sexual harassment: Comments, gestures, or physical contacts of a sexual nature that
are deliberate, repeated, and unwelcomed.
Feminism: Support of social equality for women and men, in opposition to
patriarchy and sexism.
Rape: To force (another person) to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse;
to seize and carry off by force; to plunder or pillage.
Norm: A principle of right action binding upon the members of a group, serving to
guide, control, or regulate proper and acceptable behavior.

The World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, defines
sex tourism as "trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this
sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a
commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination".1
Researchers have mapped three conditions that must be met in order for sex
tourism to succeed:(i) women must be economically deprived enough to enter into
prostitution; (ii) men from affluent backgrounds must imagine women of deprived
status as more available and submissive than women in their own societies; and (iii)
there must be a collaboration between local governments in need of foreign
currency and businessmen who are willing to invest in sexualized travel. 2
However restrictive and prejudiced the above explanation might seem, it is difficult
to treat sex tourism as an absolute anomaly. It can be considered as merely one
strand of the gendered tourism industry in which sexual services are part and
parcel of a range of informal services available. Its continuity with the larger
tourism industry deems its relation with internationalized power extremely
significant. It is being increasingly understood as a side effect of the proliferation of
mass tourism that reveals the uneven impact that globalization can have on
developing nations.
In such a context, sexual tourism becomes a practice for which a singular entity
cannot be held liable, particularly since it is closely linked to the established sex
industries of pornography and prostitution. While both these industries, on one
hand, raise issues of the right of an individual to make an active choice over sexual
pleasure, opponents have argued for the devastating impact they carry.
Exemplification of exploitation of human beings and commodification of their
bodies serves as an immediate repercussion. The omnipresence of sexual violence in
the media functions to normalize the magnitude or the gravity of situation. Even its
condemnation furthers this goal: a paradox typical of the chic soft-porn culture that
celebrates the domination of a particular sex at a time when the virility seems less
To encourage and stimulate sexual demand, the goods on offer are made to be more
enticing. The flow of sex migrants, drawn by consumerist illusions, guarantees a
steady turnover of disposable submissive bodies where excessive competition
Enloe, Cynthia 1989, Updated Edition: Bananas, Beaches, and Bases, University of California Press

drives the prices down. Such a market-oriented industry with its attempt to keep
the State Intervention at a distance, gathers attention towards a moral-ethical
dimension and a cultural debate over the issue.
The Legal Debate:
Article 2 (3) of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism 1999 clearly states that the
exploitation of human beings in any form, particularly sexual, especially when applied
to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of
tourism; as such, in accordance with international law, should be energetically
combatted with the cooperation of all the States concerned and penalized without
concession by the national legislation of both the countries visited and the countries of
the perpetrators of these acts, even when they are carried out abroad.3 This
confinement or limitation of the extent to which sex tourism can be manifested has
ran into multiple complications because of the ideology of protection coming in
conflict, quite often with the understanding that tourism, the activity most
frequently associated with rest and relaxation should be planned and practiced as a
privileged means of individual and collective fulfilment.
A drive that has taken a forefront in this regard is the Body Sovereignty Movement
which attempts to lay down the basic principles of self- ownership as against the
arguments over Right to Bodily Integrity.4
According to the doctrine propagated by the Movement:
1. Every individual owns his/her body.
2. As the owner of his/her body each individual has the right to decide:
(a) where it is located
(b) how it is housed or clothed
(c) how it is nourished
(d) how it is maintained.
(e) how it is trained or disciplined.
3. As the owner of his/her body each individual has the right to determine what
goes into it and the disposition of what comes out of it.
4. As owner of his body each individual has the right to decide what is done to
and with his body, especially, with sexual relations, medical procedures or
physical contact.
5. Every individual owns the products of his body.

Women Autonomy and Bodily Sovereignty -

The inviolability of the person is a fundamental right of the status negativus,

applying even before the other liberty rights, including the right to freedom and
political participation. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the
inviolability of the person is formulated in Article 3 with the words, Everyone has
the right to life, liberty and security of person. The discourse takes on a key position
in the debate concerning the intercultural validity of the right to bodily integrity.
The body is not simply considered as the biological aspect of human existence, it is
inextricably embedded in the culturally defined processes of creating identity and
Marketing Sex and Tourism Destinations The Economic Sphere:
An understanding of the concept of arousal is central to the understanding of the
effects of sexually-based stimuli on consumer attention and recall. In the context of
sexual innuendo used in calendar art or promotional campaign for bodily products,
arousal relates directly to the attention towards the particular advertisement that
promotes nudity. It however, is likely to be mediated by the consumers' innate
motivational state. 6
Keeping this in mind, Advertising Standards Board(s), globally, have tried to come to
a consensus on the Code of Ethics for Sexual Content. The Code provides that
advertising or marketing communications:
Shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
Should not employ sexual appeal in a manner which is exploitative and
degrading of any individual or group of people.
Besides this, technology has enabled the proliferation of pornography7, making it so
pervasive that it has become the main sex educator for many young people.
According to activists, pornography is a profound problem because it gives a
distorted view of sexuality and human relations, predominantly involving violence
against women and hazardous practices. Two terms are often used in common
parlance for sexually explicit material -- obscene and indecent -- have specific
meanings in the law. Obscene material is generally defined as that which appeals to
For examples of Sexual Innuendo in Advertising -
"Pornography" which is not rooted in law and has no commonly accepted definition. It is sometimes used as a
generic term for commercially produced sexually explicit books, magazines, movies, and Internet sites, with a
distinction commonly made between soft-core (nudity with limited sexual activity that does not include
penetration) and hard-core (graphic images of actual, not simulated, sexual activity including penetration). In other
contexts the term is juxtaposed to erotica, which typically is defined as material that depicts sexual behavior in a
context of mutuality and respect. Pornography, thus, is taken to be in a context of domination or degradation.

the prurient interest in sex, depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive manner,
and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
"Indecency" is a term from broadcasting (radio and over-the-air television) that
defines an even broader category that can be regulated - language or material that,
in context, depicts or describes, in terms of patently offensive sexual or excretory
organs or activities.
Debates about pornography and its relationship with sex-tourism up until the late
1970s were dominated by moral and legal arguments8 made in a framework that
pitted religious conservatives who support traditional sexual mores against liberal
defenders of sexual freedom. The feminist critique of pornography9, growing out of
the anti-rape and anti-violence movement, rejected that dichotomy and introduced
a harm-based, civil-rights approach to the question. Rooted in the real-world
experiences of women sharing stories through a grassroots movement, the feminist
critique highlighted pornography's harms to the women and children:(1) used in the
production of pornography;(2) who have pornography forced on them;(3) who are
sexually assaulted by men who use pornography; and (4) living in a culture in which
pornography reinforces and sexualizes women's subordinate status. 10
Although its a "virtual" sexual encounter, the addictive power and destructive
capacities of cybersex are still argued to be very real within the purview of sextourism.11 Proponents of cybersex justify this trend with the arguments along the
lines of safety from the risk of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or pregnancy as it
is a physically safe way for young people to experiment with sexual thoughts and
emotions. Cybersex, according to them, also allows real-life partners who are
physically separated to continue to be sexually intimate.
Critics, on the other hand, argue that cyberspace and virtual sex-tourism are
problematic because the partners frequently have little verifiable knowledge
(including gender) about each other. Furthermore, privacy concerns are a difficulty
with cybersex, since participants may log or record the interaction without the
other's knowledge, and possibly disclose it to others or the public.

Sexual Morality, Objectification & Religion

Feminist Viewpoint of Pornography:
Relationship between Pornography & Sex Tourism:
Cybersex can include viewing sexual images or content online, talking about the material with others online, or
engaging in two-way conversations about sex acts. It can also include the use of Web cameras to engage in sexual
acts with another partner online.

Debate continues on whether cybersex is a form of infidelity. While it does not

involve physical contact, critics claim that the powerful emotions involved can cause
marital stress. Lastly, therapists all across the globe report a growing number of
patients addicted to this activity, a form of both Internet addiction and sexual
addiction, with the standard problems associated with addictive behaviour.
The second primary avenue within virtual sex-tourism is that of child exploitation,
especially, the direct sexual solicitation of children while they are online. Sexual
predators often use pornographic images to coax children to meet them in an offline
encounter. 12 Any pornography, thus, lawmakers argue, that depicts an illegal act,
whether, rape, assault or child abuse should not be subject to protection offered to
regular pornography under freedom of expression and thus should be open to
excessive legal restriction and even prohibition. Violent pornography, as human
rights activists posit, rebrands these crimes simply as sex, which veils the inherent
wrongs portrayed in these materials, leading to an unconscious acceptance of these
Context of Street Sex-Workers:
In all societies, sex work is highly stigmatized and sex workers are often subjected
to blame, labelling, disapproval and discriminatory treatment. Laws governing
prostitution and law enforcement authorities play a key role in the violence
experienced by sex workers. In most countries, sex work is either illegal or has an
ambiguous legal status (e.g. prostitution is not illegal, but procurement of sex workers
and soliciting in public is illegal). Sex workers are, therefore, frequently regarded as
easy targets for harassment and violence. As a result, they are often reluctant to
report incidences of rapes, attempted (or actual) murders, beatings, molestation or
sexual assault to the authorities. Even when they do report, their claims are often
dismissed. 13
Besides this, sex workers often do not have access to Sexually Transmitted Infection
(STI) and HIV/AIDS services. In some countries, police have been known to
conscate condoms during routine "sweeps" (i.e. arresting all women or people) in
known sex work districts, which undermines public health outreach efforts.
For instance, possession of condoms is used as evidence of intent to commit
prostitution and arrests are made on that basis, discouraging sex workers from
carrying condoms. Health services are often hostile to sex workers, subjecting them

Sexualizing Social Inequality: Limits of Free Speech, Pornography & Law
World Health Organization Report on Violence against Sex Workers:

to disapproval, refusal to treat their health problems, mandatory HIV testing,

exposure of their HIV status and threatening to report them to the authorities.
Concept of Beach Boys & Exotic Dancers Prostitution as Entrepreneurship:
The "beach boys," or young males who work on the beach as tour guides and
organizers of boat rides and other entertainment, are often also the providers of
prostitutes. These men have a trained eye to pick out older females in search of a
male consort. In the parallel sphere, one finds female tourists engaging in
prostitution as well. 14
The women often travel in pairs and seek younger males for the duration of their
stay. Some of these encounters are brief; others last longer and are more rewarding.
In general, the male prostitutes are aware of the short term nature of the
relationship and try to make the most money during that time. Some have been
reported in succeeding to strike longer liaisons with the much awaited foreign trip
at the end. Many young males have been taken along by older women, some have
got married to the women and others return after long sojourns. The homosexual
partnerships operate in much the same manner. 15
Besides this, the strip club culture has had a strong bearing on anticipatory
socialization experiences of exotic dancers. Multiple factors influence the entry into
such a profession: a) knowledge and accessibility of an opportunity structure that
makes exotic dancing an occupational alternative, b) an awareness of the economic
rewards associated with being an exotic dancer, c) a recruitment process involving
personal networks, d) need for employment. Achieving job competence in such a
profession involves getting accustomed to the practice of taking off clothes in public,
and manipulating clientele through impression management skills. 16
Agent of Socialization: Sex Education
Sexually active teenagers are a matter of serious concern for many societies. In the
past decades many school-based programs have been designed for the sole purpose
of delaying the initiation of sexual activity. There seems to be a growing consensus
that schools can play an important role in providing youth with a knowledge base
which may allow them to make informed decisions and help them shape a healthy
lifestyle. The school is the only institution in regular contact with a sizable


Female Tourists Sexual Behaviour:
On Romance Tourism:
On Strip Club Culture:

proportion of the teenage population, with virtually all youth attending it before
they initiate sexual risk-taking behaviour.
The programs are referred to in the literature as abstinence-only or value-based
programsdesignated as safer-sex, comprehensive, secular or abstinence-plus
programs. 17 They additionally espouse the goal of increasing usage of effective
contraception. Although abstinence-only and safer-sex programs differ in their
underlying values and assumptions regarding the aims of sex education, both types
of programs strive to foster decision-making and problem-solving skills in the belief
that through adequate instruction adolescents will be better equipped to act
responsibly in the heat of the moment. Nowadays most safer-sex programs
encourage abstinence as a healthy lifestyle and many abstinence only programs
have evolved into `abstinence-oriented' curricula that also include some information
on contraception.
Body Image & Portrayal in Media:
Body image is a complicated aspect of the self-concept that concerns an individual's
perceptions and feelings about their body and physical appearance. Females of all
ages seem to be particularly vulnerable to disturbance in this area; body
dissatisfaction in women is a well-documented phenomenon in mental health
literature. Researchers have called female's concerns with their physical appearance
"normative discontent;" implying that body dissatisfaction affects almost all women
at some level. Images in the media today project an unrealistic and even dangerous
standard of feminine beauty that can have a powerful influence on the way women
view themselves. From the perspective of the mass media, thinness is idealized and
expected for women to be considered "attractive." Images in advertisements,
television, and music usually portray the "ideal woman" as tall, white, and thin, with
a "tubular" body. Furthermore, magazines are marketed to help women "better
themselves" by providing information and products that are supposed to make them
look and feel better.
According to the UNESCOs Priority Gender Equality Action Plan 2008- 2013,
[Gender equality] does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but
that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they
are born male or female. It is essential that the media promote gender equality, both
within the working environment and in the representation of women. Media needs
to highlight the issue in the news agenda to better inform society and to overcome
gender stereotypes. Journalists unions and associations have a key role to play in

On Sex Education Abstinence Only versus Comprehensive Sex Education:

this work, not least by ensuring that equal treatment for all media workers remain
on medias agenda. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the
International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNESCO and other United Nations
agencies all promote these principles, yet nowhere in the world so far has true and
total gender equality been accomplished. Women are still severely hampered by
discrimination, lack of resources and economic opportunities, by limited access to
decision-making and by gender-based violence. 18
Sting operations and selective reportage on the issue has also had its own share of
problems. Female decoys or plainclothes detectives are typically used in
prostitution operations. These stings always result in many arrests and efficient
publicity, but researchers have argued that they have no overall effect on
clients. However, a benefit of vice stings is that they also help police serve numerous
outstanding warrants for offenders wanted for other types of crime. An FBI sting
took over a credit card processing company and identified those who had used
credit cards to pay for sex. It then processed payments to and from the brothels over
a three-year period. This resulted in snagging $100,000 in bribes of local police and
the closing of 18 parlors. Few of the descriptive studies reported the length of the
stings, which suggests that police used them in conjunction with the popular use of
vice sweeps as a response to persistent prostitution. 19
The Internet offers police an excellent medium for undercover operations, and they
have used it considerably to track down and snare would-be child molesters or child
pornographers. Methods used are for officers to enter chat rooms and pose as a
child seeking excitement; setting up false web sites offering illegal pornography; and
using a well-publicized Internet sting operation to create the impression that the
Internet is a risky place for sexual predators, and that their hidden identities can be
tracked down. 20 The latter use of a sting operation differs from other uses described
above because it is not primarily oriented to investigating a complex crime resulting
in arrests, but rather to deal with the problem in a wider perspective by creating an
uncertain atmosphere and thus deter potential predators. Arrests, therefore, are not
the measure of success. Unfortunately, there are no research studies that have used
as a measure of success how many people have been deterred from seeking child
pornography or trying to contact children through teen chat rooms as a result of
well-publicized sting operations.
Efforts of United Nations on the Issue 18

UNESCOs Priority Gender Equality Action Plan:
Case Study: FBI -
Case Study of Massachusetts:

United Nations General Assembly Resolutions on Crimes against Women:

Elimination of all forms of violence, including crimes against women
(A/RES/55/68, of December 2000)21
Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century
(A/RES/59/167, of December 2004)22
Trafficking in women and girls (A/C.3/61/L.11/Rev.1, of December 2006)23
Violence against women migrant workers (A/RES/60/139, of Dec 2005)24
Traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls
(A/RES/56/128, of December 2001)25
For Rape Statistics and Related Crimes: United Nations Surveys on Crime
Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (CTS) 26
In 2012, UNODC and UNWTO signed a memorandum of understanding to step up
cooperation against this form of exploitation. They are working together in areas of
mutual interest, including the unlawful acquisition of cultural artefacts, the
enhancement of private sector anti-corruption policies and, crucially, the prevention
of human trafficking within the tourism sector.
UNODC is also implementing Project Childhood, a four-year Australian-funded
initiative that combats the sexual exploitation of children in four South-East Asian
countries - Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam
- focusing on tourism in the Greater Mekong sub-region.
Hotel companies are carrying out awareness-raising campaigns and providing
vocational training for trafficked persons. They are running community outreach
programs which help vulnerable young people, including rehabilitated victims of
human trafficking, providing them with new life opportunities and training at their
Despite these efforts, however, there has been an increase in the crimes related to
sex tourism. A systematic debate now needs to evolve on not just the preventive

UN Resolution on All Forms of Violence against Women -

UN Resolution on Gender Equality & Development:
UN Resolution on Trafficking of Women:
UN Resolution on Violence against Women Migrant Workers:
UN Resolution on Health Practices of Women:
UNODC Survey:

aspect of the cultural, moral and social order but also on post-facto mechanisms
such as the right to reparation is the need of the hour. United Nations General
Assembly 3rd Committee: SOCHUM will convene on 3rd January, 2014 to further the
discussion on the matter.
Note: To submit a policy statement in written covering country stance, problems and
recommendations at the commencement of the committee is optional. It will be read
and duly marked as any other written chit sent to the Executive Board.