Few issues have gained such universal support as the right of all children to be free from sexual abuse. All countries of the world but two have signed the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Article 34 of which stipulates that State Parties have the obligation to protect children from “all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse”.
Children are most likely to experience sexual exploitation or abuse at the hands of a family member or of someone known to them. There is also evidence, however, that over and above intra-familial sexual abuse, there exists a transnational market for the sexual services of children. The general pattern is that “tourists” from developed countries (including Australia) seek out the sexual services of children in developing countries. Children in these countries may be vulnerable to sexual exploitation due to poverty, social dislocation, family breakdown, and prior experiences of sexual victimisation, and/or homelessness. In some cases, children may actively seek out customers for their sexual services as a means of economic survival. These circumstances do not change the fact that sexual activity with children is universally condemned as an abuse of human rights and is, in many countries, a crime. This paper provides an overview of the Australian Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Act 1994 and reviews a number of cases which have been prosecuted since it became law.