Japan firms urge tourists off child prostitution

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Tokyo – Japanese travel agents are urging tourists not to sexually exploit children on overseas trips but admitted today after that after a year of effort they still have not done enough.Japan has long been criticised for what other nations see as a lax attitude to sexual exploitation of the young, both at home and in other parts of Asia, and Japanese men have been notorious for their overseas sex tourism.

Some 82 travel companies in Japan, including industry giant JTB Corp, have joined ”Code Project,” an international code of conduct aimed at using the financial clout of tourism firms to help wipe out child sexual exploitation by tourists.

Over the past year, many Japanese travel companies have placed an anti-exploitation logo – the figure of a child on a suitcase, with a red line drawn over the child – on brochures.

”People still don’t understand what the logo mark means,” said Susumu Morimoto of travel firm JALPAK Co. ”But if we manage to make even one more person understand this issue, that’s good.” Companies that sign up to the code, initiated by UNICEF in 2003 and which some 25 nations follow, agree to break off contracts with local suppliers who fail to meet commitments on preventing child exploitation, educate staff and make tourists aware of the problem.

”Because the Japanese travel industry is so huge, of course getting it involved in this campaign will have quite a large impact,” said Junko Miyamoto, a representative for ECPAT, an international NGO working to stop child prostitution.

UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children under 18 fall victim to child prostitution around the world annually, but there is no firm data available on the number and nationality of foreigners involved or arrested.