ECPAT International

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ECPAT International
PurposeChild protection
Area served
Key people
Carol Bellamy (chair)

ECPAT International is a global network of civil society organisations that works to end the sexual exploitation of children. It focuses on halting the online sexual exploitation of children, the trafficking of children for sexual purposes, and the sexual exploitation of children in the travel and tourism industry.

The ECPAT International network consists of 118 member organisations in 102 countries.[1] Its secretariat is based in Bangkok, Thailand, providing technical support to member groups, coordinating research, and managing international advocacy campaigns.


In 1990, researchers and activists helped to establish ECPAT (an acronym for End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism)[2] as a three-year campaign to end "sex tourism," with an initial focus on Asia.[3] As the terms "child prostitution" and "sex tourism" are no longer used in the sector, today the organization goes by its initials ECPAT.[4] Anti-Slavery International was one of the original supporters, and helped to set up a branch in the UK.[5]

In 1996, in partnership with UNICEF and the NGO Group for the Rights of the Child (now known as Child Rights Connect[6]), ECPAT International co-organised a global world congress against the sexual exploitation of children in Stockholm, Sweden. The congress was hosted by the Government of Sweden, which also played a major role in attracting support and participation from other governments. As a result, ECPAT grew from a regional campaign into a global non-governmental organization.[7]

Between 2009 and 2012, ECPAT, in partnership with The Body Shop, helped run the Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People[8] campaign, which called on governments to safeguard the rights of children and adolescents to protect them from trafficking for sexual purposes. More than 7 million petition signatures were collected worldwide and presented to government officials around the world and to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Research and human rights reporting[edit]

States with one or more organizations that are connected to the ECPAT network
  ECPAT group(s) in the state

ECPAT International produces a variety of research and resources for use by its network members, other NGOs, UN agencies, and researchers. These include regular country reports, regional reports and studies on specific forms of child sexual exploitation, such as the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism,[9] and the online sexual exploitation of children.[10]

ECPAT is mandated to monitor the commitments of governments around the world and their legal obligations to protect children from sexual exploitation. ECPAT produces regular country monitoring reports[11] that are presented to the United Nations in Geneva, to follow up implementation of the Stockholm Agenda for Action (Stockholm, 1996).

Network membership[edit]

The ECPAT network currently consists of 104 member organisations in 93 countries. These include independent civil society organisations, grassroots NGOs and coalitions of NGOs focused on a range of child rights violations.

The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism[edit]

The Code is a set of protocols that tourism operators may sign up to, in order to ensure that their businesses do not facilitate or encourage the sexual exploitation of children by travelers and tourists. The Code was developed by ECPAT Sweden in 1996 and is promoted through the international ECPAT network. Today, more than 350 tour operators, hotels, airlines and other travel businesses across 42 countries have become members, including some of the biggest tourism companies in the world.[12][13][14]

Protecting children online[edit]

ECPAT International works with law enforcement partners, such as INTERPOL, to prevent the online sexual exploitation of children. It engages with other child rights organisations, for example, through the Internet Governance Forum, and is a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce[15] and the European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Online. ECPAT is also part of the International Telecommunication Union´s Child Online Protection initiative.[16] ECPAT has signed agreements with the International Association of Internet Hotlines,[17] the Internet Watch Foundation and Child Helpline International.[18]

ECPAT advocates for the ratification of international and regional legal instruments such as the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote convention).


SESTA/FOSTA and use of false data[edit]

ECPAT has been criticised for its lobbying for Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which has been described as a law intended to "curb online sex work"[19] but which does little to stop the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT has claimed that at least 100,000 children in the U.S. are commercially sexually exploited, based on reports which used data from 1990 and which have been criticised by social scientists as inaccurate. The Washington Post claimed that the figure was "conjured out of thin air, based on old data from a largely discredited report."[20] ECPAT attempted to justify their use of the figure by citing a NISMART report that claimed that there are 1.7 million child runaway incidents each year, and that their figure was conservative, despite the report stating that only 1,700 of the 1.7 million children were engaged in the sex trade, and that more than three-quarters of children were away from home for less than a week, leaving only a very small window for sex trafficking.[21] ECPAT subsequently agreed "to stop using the figure".[20]

ECPAT has responded to criticism against SESTA, describing legal sex workers as a "very small segment of society that enters sex work with their eyes wide open, and in the absence of coercion".[22] However, since the law came into effect, sex workers have suffered increasing threats of violence, harassment and pimping. Online communities which provide support to sex workers, such as finding shelter or food, issuing warnings about potentially violent clients and providing know-your-rights training, were shut down, putting sex workers in danger. In the past, authorities have used such platforms to track traffickers, and fear that closing them has driven traffickers underground.[23][24]



  1. ^ "ECPAT International". ECPAT International. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  2. ^ "ECPAT - End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism". Knowledge for policy. European Commission. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Regional Overview of the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Southeast Asia" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Home - Terminology Guidelines". Terminology Guidelines. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Our history". Anti-Slavery International. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  6. ^ "members & partners | Child Rights Connect". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  7. ^ "World Congress III". 28 November 2008. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Stop Sex Trafficking | The Body Shop Australia". The Body Shop. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Global Report 2016 -". 23 February 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Towards a Global Indicator on Unidentified Victims in Online Sexual Exploitation - summary report" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Resources Archive - ECPAT International". ECPAT International. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Home".
  13. ^ Ms. Anne van der TuukAbang Africa Travel (21 November 2013). "History". The Code. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  14. ^ Hetter, Katia. "Fighting sex trafficking in hotels, one room at a time". CNN.
  15. ^ "Private Sector Partners". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  16. ^ "Working Together". ITU. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  17. ^ "ECPAT International and the INHOPE Foundation cooperate in the fight against child sexual abuse material". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  18. ^ "CHI - Child Helpline International". Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  19. ^ Romano, Aja (2 July 2018). "A new law intended to curb sex trafficking threatens the future of the internet as we know it" – via
  20. ^ a b Kessler, Glenn (2 September 2015). "The fishy claim that '100,000 children' in the United States are in the sex trade". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  21. ^ "Sex Workers Are Protesting FOSTA/SESTA Across the Country". Vice. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Facts and Myths About SESTA". ECPAT-USA. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  23. ^ Cohn, Scott (27 July 2018). "Online sex ads are disappearing due to anti-trafficking law, but is that a good thing?". CNBC. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  24. ^ Lunau, Kate; Cole, Samantha (30 April 2018). "Pimps Are Preying on Sex Workers Pushed Off the Web Because of FOSTA-SESTA". Motherboard. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  25. ^ Marc Moorghen. "ECPAT International Receives $1.5 Million Hilton Humanitarian Prize - Press release". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  26. ^ "Anti-trafficking group wins Interpol award for child sexual..." Reuters. 17 November 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2018.

External links[edit]