This June, fans and tourists from around the world will descend on Brazil to support their teams as they compete for the ultimate prize in global football: the World Cup.
But right now, in the shadows of football stadiums and hotels throughout the country, thousands of children suffer the horrors of sexual slavery in silence.
In many tourist destinations worldwide, children are routinely subjected to horrific sexual abuse, violence and degradation at the hands of unscrupulous traffickers and offenders from many different places, including the UK. Hundreds of cases have been documented recently where British nationals, some convicted sex offenders, have travelled abroad and sexually abused children, attempting to avoid prosecution by local and UK authorities and leaving victims alone without the vital protection and support they need. This has to stop.
Tell Foreign Secretary William Hague to immediately introduce measures that make it easier to investigate and prosecute travelling British offenders, and protect vulnerable children.
I commend the UK Government’s aspiration to fight child sexual exploitation and abuse by British nationals abroad through extraterritorial laws to ensure that offenders are prosecuted and punished for their crimes.
However, I am concerned that the investigation and prosecution of these crimes falls short due to many factors, including the lack of capacity and resources of in-country and UK-based law enforcement agencies to deal with large-scale and complex transnational investigations. This is even more concerning given the fact that since the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, there have been as few as two successful prosecutions utilising new powers to combat the sexual abuse of children abroad by British nationals.
Starting with the urgent problem in Brazil, please introduce the following measures that will make it easier to investigate crimes, prosecute offenders and protect children everywhere.
- Immediately ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
- Establish a dedicated national enforcement team to focus exclusively on cases of transnational child sexual abuse
- Pilot an in-country investigation team to travel to Brazil to respond swiftly to reports of abuse and set a precedent for further proactive cooperative work against child sexual exploitation and abuse in tourism
Children abroad who are at risk of exploitation and abuse by British tourists are as much our responsibility as children in the UK.