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Combating child sex tourism

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Combating child sex tourism

With this communication, the European Union aims to step up its action to combat the abuse and sexual exploitation of children.


Communication from the Commission of 27 November 1996 on combating child sex tourism.


The expansion of tourism over the past half-century has more recently been accompanied by an increase in child sex tourism. The main perpetrators of child sexual exploitation in tourism are not 'real' paedophiles but people who take advantage of being in another country to ignore the social taboos which would normally govern their behaviour ("preferential abusers" and "occasional abusers"). The World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm in August 1996, provided an opportunity to define this phenomenon more clearly.

The Commission is concerned about the increase in child sexual exploitation and the fact that it is spreading geographically, and wants the Member States and the tourism industry to become more closely involved in fighting this scourge. To this end, it intends to encourage the drawing-up and implementation of codes of conduct which are in line with the tourism ethic as laid down in the Tourism Bill of Rights and the Tourist Code adopted by the World Tourism Organisation in 1985.

Practical steps have already been taken, including the measures referred to in the Communication on harmful and illegal content on the Internet, the Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual and information services (October 1996), and the Communication on trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation (November 1996).

In practical terms, the Commission is considering EU measures in three priority areas:

Deterring and punishing child sex abusers

It is important to get rid of any legal vacuums that may exist, in particular by enacting laws to punish offenders for offences and crimes committed against children abroad, and by giving national courts extra-territorial jurisdiction in this area, even where the presumed offence or crime is not provided for under the laws of the country in which it was committed. It is clear from initial assessments that increased judicial cooperation between the Member States is needed.

Collecting and exchanging information on the social aspects of sex tourism will improve understanding of this phenomenon. For example, such information could cover the links between tourism and prostitution, the identity, motivation and behaviour of sex tourists, and the public health implications of sex tourism.

Preventive measures could be taken by the national tourism authorities, particularly by providing information for travellers. As well as making them aware of differences between the foreign country and their own, travellers would be reminded of the need to respect the values of the country being visited and to comply with certain basic rules of behaviour. A coordinated EU response could then be considered by the Advisory Committee in the field of tourism, made up of members designated by each Member State, and at the Commission's consultation meetings with the tourism industry.

Stemming the flow of sex tourists from the Member States

The reasons underlying the supply side of child sex tourism are as numerous as they are complex, although poverty is one of the main factors. The Commission intends to focus its action primarily on the demand side because child sex tourists come mainly from industrialised countries, including EU Member States.

To this end, coordinated public information and awareness-raising campaigns against child sex tourism could be organised. The Community would provide funding for these campaigns and would mobilise the various Community information networks. Programmes and training modules for people working in the tourism industry (including students being trained in the tourism sector) could give them guidelines for combating child sex tourism. Finally, the drafting and tightening-up of codes of conduct and self-regulatory mechanisms in the tourism industry would be important instruments. The Commission will push for the various branches of the tourism industry to sign up to a basic minimum set of commitments.

Helping to combat sex tourism in third countries

This line of action is in keeping with the principle of respect for human rights both within and outside the EU, as laid down in the treaties and agreements the EU has concluded with countries outside the EU. While the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes is not actually perpetrated by governments, the Commission will apply pressure on countries which appear to be dilatory in this regard.

With regard to financing, the Commission will act in accordance with the principles of rationalising methods for action and coordinating the Community resources available for the protection of children who are victims of sex tourism. Existing instruments for promoting and protecting the rights of the child could be used specifically to support measures to help children who are victims of sex tourism. At the same time, there should be political dialogue with the developing countries most affected. Other measures could be considered once a more detailed analysis of the nature and extent of child sex tourism and of the measures implemented by the countries concerned has been undertaken.


The EU Member States have a duty to take practical steps to combat child sex tourism:

  • in view of the countries of origin of the tourists involved;
  • to prevent the development of child prostitution in Europe;
  • because they have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.



Entry into force - Expiry date

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

COM(96)547 final



OJ C 3 of 7.1.1997



Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA of 22 December 2003 on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

Council Decision of 29 May 2000 to combat child pornography on the Internet.

Decision 96/700/JHA - Official Journal L 322, 12.12.1996

Council Joint Action of 29 November 1996 establishing an incentive and exchange programme for persons responsible for combating trade in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children (STOP programme).

Decision 96/748/JHA - Official Journal L 342, 31.12.1996

Council Joint Action of 16 December 1996 extending the mandate given to the Europol Drugs Unit to traffic in human beings.

Decision 97/154/JHA - Official Journal L 63, 04.03.1997

Council Joint Action of 24 February 1997 concerning action to combat trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children.


Communication - not published in the Official Journal

Communication from the Commission of 26 May 1999 on the implementation of measures to combat child sex tourism.

See also

Additional information:

"Freedom, security and justice" website of the European Commission's Directorate-General JLS:

  • EU action against trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children

European Parliament's "Area of security , freedom and justice" website:

Last updated: 03.01.2007