According to Amazon Tour’s owner Phil Marsteller, he has searched the words “child sex tourism” on Google. What he found has disturbed him.
According to Marsteller, an estimated 2 million children worldwide are prostituted annually. “You’ll read about those who travel abroad to have sex with children, some as young as five,” he said.
Startled with what he has learned, Marsteller has decided to take matters into his own hands. On Monday, September 15 at 12:30 pm, he will take a very public stand against these crimes by signing the “Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” at the Church Center for the United Nations, 10th floor, 777 UN Plaza at the corner of First Ave and 44th Street, which faces the delegates’ entrance to UN Headquarters in New York City.
Marsteller said he is taking this stand because “I want to fight this cancer that is ruining not only my industry but the lives of those living in the land that I love.”
This historic signing ceremony is sponsored by the US office of the End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes or ECPAT, the NGO Committee on UNICEF and The Code. Speakers include Frederico Silva da Costa, who is Brazil’s national secretary for tourism development; Carol Smolenski, ECPAT-USA’s executive director; and representatives from UNICEF and the US State Department. Also on the invited list is Brazil’s ambassador to the US, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti.
Federal statutes prohibit sex trafficking and sex tourism so those caught may face up to life in prison, as one quarter of all sex tourists are Americans, Marsteller said. “These same laws target those caught arranging sex tours to places like Thailand, Costa Rica and Brazil.”
Marsteller grew up in the jungles of northern Brazil as he worked alongside his missionary parents until he was 19. “I taught my friends to fly kites and they taught me to hunt and fish in the jungle,” he said. “In 1992, I started Amazon Tours so I could take people fishing for Peacock Bass on the third largest river in the world, the Rio Negro. I also wanted to give back to those who had given so much to me and my family.”
“In 1999, I began seeing other fishing tour operators illegally taking their clients into the Indian reservations so they could pick out their own girls, some as young as 12 and 13,” Marsteller explained. “I saw young girls wearing skimpy bathing suits in the fishing boats with the American tourists as they drank and fished. As things got worse, I knew that I had to do something and began learning about those who fight to protect these children from lives of ruin.”
According to Marsteller, the “Code of Conduct” consists of six criteria adopted by suppliers of tourism services–to establish an ethical policy regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children; to train personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations; to introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial exploitation of children; to provide information to travelers by means of catalogs, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc; to provide information to local “key persons” at the destinations; and to report annually.
Marsteller is also active on other fronts as well. Visit his Rio Negro Foundation at http://rionegrofoundation.org to learn about the medical /dental clinic, school and research facility built by him and his wife, Ruth. The research facility is used for cooperative projects including the Peacock Bass Project, the Amazon Turtle Project and the study of Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Rio Negro Basin.
Meanwhile, to learn more about ECPAT USA, you can log onto www.ecpat-usa.org.