The child-sex tourism industry that caters to pedophiles preying on the world's poorest children is slowly being chipped away at through tougher laws in the United States and new efforts worldwide to pull back the curtain on this underground network.
Although trafficking in children has plagued countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, and Costa Rica for decades, in the past year a synergy has developed between the US, NGOs, and the UN to curb the part of the multibillion-dollar sex-tourism industry that targets children.
And their efforts are beginning to show results. In the US, pedophiles who regularly traveled abroad for cheap, abundant child sex are being prosecuted. In other countries where poverty and lack of education drive the sex trade, new sobering advertising campaigns will start warning potential offenders of the consequences of buying sex with a child.
Wednesday a campaign called the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children From Sexual Commercial Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, or simply "the code," was launched at the UN.
A joint effort by UNICEF, the World Tourism Organization, and ECPAT-USA, a global organization that works to end child prostitution, the "code" is designed to create a more responsible tourism industry, one vigilant against child exploitation. Its signatories commit to helping identify - and more importantly - report potential abusers.
Fifty companies have signed on to the code, but so far only one from the US, Carlson Companies Inc., has agreed to participate.