The sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism is a pervasive problem in Cambodia. Ranked 143rd out of 188 countries in the United Nations latest Human Development Index (HDI), Cambodia continues to face challenges with access to basic resources with 14 percent of the population living in poverty.
Significant growth in travel and tourism in recent years has transformed Cambodia to one of the hotspots for the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia welcomed more than five million tourists in 2016, compared to less than two million in 2006. Arrivals are increasingly Asian tourists with China accounting for 31% of arrivals in the first four months of 2017. Increased tourism brings many benefits, but also leads to increased risks of vulnerable children being sexually exploited. While Thailand and the Philippines continue to attract those who seek to abuse and exploit children, countries such as Cambodia have become a target. Evidence suggests this is the result of improved preventative efforts in more traditional hotspots such as Thailand (ECPAT, 2016). In Cambodia specifically, this is linked to the combination of the sharp increases in tourism, poverty, child vulnerability and low likelihood of detection.
Project WATCH was implemented in Cambodia to prevent and tackle SECTT in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. The project has several outcomes that address the four themes in the TdH NL Theory of Change.
Prevention: children, families and communities understand the implications of SECTT and are able to form informant networks to monitor and identify children at risk, report SECTT cases and engage with appropriate individuals/CSOs to provide services and support.
Promotion: Government coordinates efforts of multi-stakeholders for prevention of and response to SECTT.
Prosecution: Government institutions relevant to criminal justice system have capacity to undertake child-centric investigations for better protection of SECTT victims and SECTT witnesses throughout the criminal justice process.