Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility – this includes both the prevention of harm and abuse, and effectively responding to reports or suspicions of abuse. All travel organisations have a duty of care to protect all children they work with, have contact with, or who are affected by their work.
If you are a traveller please be aware of this issue and do not visit orphanages, give sweets to children or encourage them to beg. Children are not tourist attractions. Be aware of the risk of paedophilia. Don't turn a blind eye to it.
G Adventures has developed a short video on how to interact with children whilst travelling, such as taking photos, giving gifts or money, and volunteering in orphanages. They use the premise that if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it while you are travelling overseas
There is more information below. There is much more material on alternatives to orphanages here.
The following resources may be useful for travel organisations working to improve their child protection policies and procedures:
- UN Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC is the most widely ratified UN treaty in the world – it has been ratified by every country in the world with the exception of the United States of America. The UNCRC is the basis for all child rights.
- UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children. These Guidelines supplement the UNCRC and reinforce that: “the family is the best place for a child and efforts should be primarily directed to enable a child to remain or return to his/her parents or, where appropriate, to other close family members”. This is particularly relevant to travel organisations which may be working with projects where children have been separated from their families, e.g. orphanages. See Beyond Orphanage Visits for more information.
- Keeping Children Safe. This is a good resource for organisations of all types working with or in contact with children. It has a set of International Child Safeguarding Standards, out of which come a range of tools, resources and training materials, including a self-audit tool for organisations. It’s easy to navigate, internationally-relevant and user-friendly.
- ChildSafe is a user-friendly resource to provide advice on how to prevent child abuse in an international context, and how to effectively respond to child abuse. ChildSafe has also partnered with G Adventures and Planeterra Foundation to develop Global Good Practice Guidelines specifically for the child welfare and travel industry. In ChildSafe’s words, the guidelines were developed to provide a common understanding of child welfare issues throughout the travel industry and to provide all travel businesses with guidance to prevent all forms of exploitation and abuse that could be related to travellers and the tourism industry.
- The Code – The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism – is an influential multi-stakeholder initiative for the travel and tourism industry aimed at providing awareness, tools and support to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. This can include prostitution and pornography, trafficking, voluntourism, orphanage tourism and mega sporting events. When companies join The Code they sign up to six criteria or steps to keep children safe – these include: policies and procedures, training, contracts and supply chain management, providing information to travellers, collaboration and support for stakeholders, and annual reporting.
- ‘Grey Areas’ of Child Protection. Child safeguarding understandably often becomes associated with the more extreme forms of child abuse, such as trafficking and sex-tourism. Nobody would disagree that these are unacceptable, but where the debate gets more contentious is around the ‘grey areas’ of how to interact with children whilst travelling, such as taking photos, giving gifts or money, and volunteering in orphanages. G Adventures has developed a good short video on some of these issues using the premise that if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it while you are travelling overseas.
- Encountering abuse while overseas. If you do encounter child abuse overseas, it’s sometimes hard to know where or how to respond to it, particularly if resources are scarce or systems are not in place. If you suspect a child to be at risk, you should, as far as possible, alert the police or government agency responsible for child protection. The standard response should always be to refer to the government agency responsible for child protection, but in some cases referring a child to such an agency could place them at further risk. For example, you may have concerns that corruption could lead to retribution. In these situations, it is better to speak to local and reputable child rights organisations to identify safe ways to report concerns through the official system or find an alternative way to protect the child. Childsafe has a comprehensive list of ‘hotlines’ for reporting child abuse in most countries around the world which can be accessed here: https://thinkchildsafe.org/report/
with thanks to Martin Punaks
International Development Consultant
Strategic Advisor for Next Generation Nepal