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My Words as Weapons: Creepy American Tourists

My blog spans many themes and subjects, from light-hearted to serious, but my aim on Wednesdays is to be a human rights activist, usually tackling the atrocity of human trafficking, a.k.a. the modern slave trade.

“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”
– William Wilberforce

Over the summer I read a book called Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom by Dawn Herzog Jewell, all about “sex-trafficking, global prostitution, and the gospel’s transforming power.”  While I read, I added tiny post-it notes to flag areas and content I found interesting, shocking, or that I knew I would want to address later.  It’s later now. Sometimes you just need to let information sit for a while to process.  Other times you forget, due to time lapsing, or laziness.  Mine was a combination of both, I think.  I’ve gotten into researching human trafficking fairly heavily a few times, but sometimes it just makes me so mad or sick that I need an emotional break.  Break’s over.  I believe I will use my post-it notes and this insightful book to inspire my next several Wednesday human rights posts.  Please share this information if you feel it can help make any difference.

American tourists don’t have a great global reputation.  This does not mean all American tourists are jerks or anything.  Sometimes I am an American tourist. However, we are often seen as rude.  I can top that.  Many people won’t believe this exists, but there is a whole network of global sex-tourism, and according to this book and World Vision, “Some predators travel specifically for ‘sex-tours’, expecting anonymity, low-cost prostitution, ready access to children, and immunity from prosecution.  Americans account for 25 per cent of child sex tourists, according to reliable global estimates.”   Sure, there’s another 75 per cent from other parts of the world, but how is it that one country alone accounts for so many creepy pedophiles on a mission to ruin the innocence of children in impoverished nations?


The other part of this appalling information that caught my attention was the information that followed.  I knew already that Thailand and the Philippines were huge prostitution destinations, and that children made up a disproportionate percentage of these “prostitutes”, but I was unaware that San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, had more than 300 brothels, rivaling the others in this industry.  “Commercial sexual exploitation of children in Costa Rica could involve as many as 5,000 sex ‘tourists’ every year.”

Photo borrowed from Rahab Foundation's page

Photo borrowed from Rahab Foundation’s page

The reason this shocked me so much is that I was in San Jose two summers ago on a mission trip.  I saw some of the areas from where the victims are lured.  Costa Rica is not a poor country, but the difference between the haves and the have-nots is enormous, making the have-nots perfect for such injustices.  Costa Rica is also a huge tourist destination, and some tourists like to take part in the ‘local attractions.’ Many of those families cannot afford to exist together, and most of these young people will not be able to attend school for long.  What other options do they have?

My mission team first expected to work with the Rahab Foundation, located in San Jose to help restore and reintegrate families involved in prostitution, but the schedule would not permit, so we worked with  Roblealto Child Care Association instead, where we were able to work with at risk kids who are cared for in a way that will give them hope and prevent them from entering prostitution.  Seeing these young kids, it is hard to think of the dangers they face, and I am glad organizations such as these exist.  Perhaps one day, after I learn better Spanish communication, I can get back to San Jose and work with these organizations to show unconditional love and hope to these young people.