Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Second supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for International Development


  1.  This complex issue involves a number of parties in addition to the UK sex tourists themselves, including the Governments of the UK and the host countries, the relevant ministries in each, travel agents, and institutions and individuals in the sex industry in the host countries.

  2.  In the UK, the government departments with potential interests include the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For the most part, however, so long as laws were not broken nor consular matters raised, neither would be likely to become engaged. We understand that it is now possible for UK citizens to be prosecuted for having sex with minors in countries sch as Thailand, and that a number of precedents exist for this. However, it is also likely that (a) only a small proportion of such cases would come to the attention of the authorities, and (b) that they would involve a minority of foreign tourists who purchase sex.

  3.  The travel industry has been accused, in the past, of promoting or enabling sex tourism to take place, though understandably industry representatives have denied this. There could be scope for government consultation with the industry.

  4.  The abolitionist approach to the sex industry has not been successful as a way of reducing HIV infection. By taking a more constructive approach, the Thai Government has demonstrated the value of promoting safe behaviour in brothels through its world-acclaimed 100 per cent condom campaign. This was highly successful in contributing to the reduction of HIV infection in Thailand.

  5.  DFID does not have a role in relation to the potential Home Office or FCO interests, but does have a role in supporting national risk-reduction programmes for HIV/AIDS. Where sex tourism exists, it is likely to be one part of a well-established national sex industry. Well-designed national HIV/AIDS programmes collaborate with commercial sex workers and their clients as important partners in limiting the spread of HIV. In countries where DFID supports the national response to HIV/AIDS, it always considers the countries' needs for financial or technical assistance with its targeted interventions, including interventions with sex workers and clients.

Health and Population Division
Department for International Development

June 2000

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