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9 June - South Africa's travel and hotel industries have signed a code of conduct designed to protect children against sex tourism, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today, praising the ethical guide as an enduring legacy of the 2010 World Cup which starts in the country on Friday.

“The contribution of the travel and tourism industry is vital to help stamp out child sexual exploitation,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF's representative in South Africa, following the signing of the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct in Johannesburg yesterday.

“When it comes to the sexual exploitation of children, there can be no innocent bystanders,” Ms. Girma said. “Effective child protection is only possible when all sectors of society were mobilised. Together, we must demonstrate zero tolerance of child exploitation and make South Africa a tourist destination that is safe for children,” she added.

South Africa has also enacted legislation that strengthens the criminalization of the use of children in prostitution and has introduced measures to enhance their protection during the World Cup period.

While child sex tourism is not strongly associated with South Africa, high poverty levels and growing inequality suggest that tens of thousands of children in the country are at risk of sexual and other forms of exploitation. Domestic as well as foreign tourists may knowingly or unknowingly become involved in child exploitation, for example by transacting sex with under-age sex workers or buying goods from traders exploiting child labour.

UNICEF and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) provided technical inputs and funded the initiative to support the Fair Trade and Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) in preparation for the code's implementation.

Fourteen leading organizations in the South African travel, hotel and tourism industry have signed up to the code.

The signing is also linked to a wider UNICEF-led national communication campaign – “Let's Give a Red Card to Child Exploitation” – aimed at protecting children during the World Cup and beyond.

An international initiative first introduced in Thailand and Kenya, the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct is spearheaded by FTTSA in partnership with South African Tourism and key child protection partners, including the department of social development. It has been endorsed by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). To date, nearly 1,000 companies in 35 countries have signed the code.

Tourism businesses that choose to sign the code commit themselves to implementing the following measures – establish an ethical corporate policy regarding sexual exploitation of children; train personnel in the country of origin and in destinations and introduce clauses in contracts with suppliers stating a common repudiation of sexual exploitation of children, among other requirements.