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Spotlight on: Sex Tourism

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Sex tour companies organize trips for their customers to another country for the primary purpose of engaging in prostitution. Sex tours originate mainly from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, among others, and go to developing countries including the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Sex tour companies may be in violation of laws both in their place of business (where profiting from prostitution may be illegal) and in the places of destination (where prostitution and solicitation of prostitution may be illegal). In addition, the activities of these companies result in commercial sexual exploitation of women, implicitly condone violence against women and contribute to trafficking in women and girls. The Trafficking in Persons National Security Presidential Directive issued on February 25, 2003, by U.S. President George W. Bush stated, "Prostitution and related activities which are inherently harmful and dehumanizing, contribute to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons, as does sex tourism, which is an estimated $1 billion per year business worldwide."

Promotional materials of sex tour companies like their websites, brochures, videos and the "entertainment" events they organize, ably demonstrate how sex tour companies contribute to the exploitation and objectification of women and women's bodies by promoting prostitution and pornography. Bendricks International Men's Vacation Club, for instance, a company based in Miami, Florida, offers its customers tours to Costa Rica, Caribbean and South America and advertises, "Whatever your personal preference, latin, blonde, black, mulatto, petite, etc., [the girls] will be friendly, attentive and eager to please you."

Equality Now is working to end sex tourism and the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. After a seven year campaign by Equality Now, the New York State Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order against Poughkeepsie-based Big Apple Oriental Tours on July 29, 2003, that severely restricted its future business and effectively led to the disabling of its website. A civil lawsuit against Big Apple Oriental Tours is underway. To learn more about Equality Now's campaign against Big Apple Oriental Tours please go to: http://www.equalitynow.org/english/direct/hub_dir_baot_en.html

Equality Now is also working on a campaign to shutdown Video Travel, a sex tour company based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Video Travel sends its customers on its "Ultimate Asian Sex Tour" to Thailand, where prostitution is illegal. Equality Now believes the owner of the company, Mr. Melvin Hamaguchi, through Video Travel is violating Hawaii's laws on promoting prostitution. Despite this, Video Travel has a license to operate by the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Equality Now is urging the Hawaii Attorney General to take action against Mr. Hamaguchi, along similar lines as New York's Attorney General, and asking for the revocation of Mr. Hamaguchi's travel agent's license. For more information on this campaign please go to:

In the effort to end sex tourism originating from the United States, Equality Now is advocating the use of federal law to criminally prosecute owners of sex tour companies. Equality Now believes that sex tour operators violate the Mann Act because they knowingly entice and transport their customers for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities, for which a person can be charged with a criminal offence, that is, prostitution.

To learn more about Equality Now's Women's Actions on related issues, such as trafficking in women, or to become a member please visit www.equalitynow.org


Equality Now, December 2003

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