(WOMENSENEWS)--Real Hospitality Group became the first hotel management company in the United Sates on June 14 to sign a code of conduct designed to protect children from sexual exploitation driven by tourism. The code was signed at a New York City press conference.
Seven other U.S. companies have signed the code, including hotel chains and airlines.
The company, based in Ocean City, Md., is the largest of its kind operating in New York City. It manages 17 hotels, including five Sheraton-owned hotels, five Fairfield Inns owned by Marriot and a Holiday Inn.
The code of conduct was authored in 2000 by ECPAT--which stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes--an international nongovernmental organization headquartered in Thailand. The organization has been working since 1990 in more than 75 countries and has special consultative status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a status granted to nongovernmental organizations that have a special competence in an area covered by the ECOSOC.
A million children are trafficked every year, according to the United Nations. While no gender breakdown is available for that figure, 80 percent of those trafficked are women and girls, according to the U.S. State Department.
To help combat trafficking, ECPAT has developed a six-point code for companies in the tourism industry to comply with, including establishing a corporate ethical policy against child exploitation, training staff on protocol for when victims or traffickers are identified and annual reporting.
Forty other companies worldwide have already signed the code, including Delta Airlines, Hilton Worldwide and Wyndham Worldwide Corporation.
In another effort in New York City to curb sex trafficking, the City Council passed legislation on June 13 that would fine taxi drivers who knowingly transport victims. The legislation also encourages education for drivers through the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Sadiya Ansari is a Pakistani-Canadian freelance writer, based in Vancouver.