On April 10, 2003, the U.S. Congress passed The PROTECT Act (Prosecuting Remedies and Tools Against the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003). This legislation provides a number of new measures that will protect children from sexual exploitation.
Endorsed by World Vision, the PROTECT Act establishes:
- the national “Amber Alert” network and “Code Adam” systems to recover abducted children
- stronger laws to combat child pornography and exploitation
- increased penalties for sex offenses against children (including life imprisonment for repeat offenders)
- important enhancements to current “sex tourism” laws.
“These and other measures included in the bill are a tremendous victory for children
and child advocates,” stated Joseph Mettimano, Child Protection Policy Advisor with World Vision.
Of particular interest are the enhancements to U.S. sex tourism laws
that impact many of the children World Vision serves in developing countries. World Vision has advocated for these changes to current U.S. law in order to better protect children abroad from American pedophiles that travel to poor countries to engage in sex with minors.
The PROTECT Act
strengthens existing U.S. law by:
- increasing imprisonment penalties to 30 years for convicted sex tourists
- criminalizing persons or organizations that assist or organize sex tours
- better enabling federal prosecutors to convict offenders by modifying burden of proof requirements
- establishing parallel penalty enhancements that apply to the production of child pornography overseas.
“We applaud Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) for their outstanding leadership in creating this new law,” said Mettimano. “The sexual exploitation of children is an abomination and should not be tolerated anywhere. The United States has a duty to convict and punish any U.S. citizen that travels abroad to sexually abuse children.”
World Vision has launched a sex tourism prevention program
in the United States. This project will utilize the media, Internet and partnerships with the U.S. travel and tourism industry to deter U.S. citizens from sexually exploiting children overseas, and in the United States. This new law will provide a stronger foundation for succeeding in this work.
Each year millions of children are sexually exploited through pornography and prostitution in countries such as Cambodia, Costa Rica, Thailand, India and the United States. Organized “sex tours” for Americans and others traveling abroad exacerbates this problem. A survey conducted in December 2001 by World Vision and the Cambodian Government indicates that Western pedophiles accounted for about 38 percent of all child sex offenders in three principle destinations for tourists in Cambodia. ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking of Children) estimates that 25 percent of sex tourists worldwide are U.S. citizens.
Founded in 1950, World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization, serving the world's poorest children and families in nearly 100 countries.