Hotels in Rio can help achieve gold at the games

Hotels can help staff tackle child sexual exploitation

Hotels can help staff tackle child sexual exploitation

Behind the scenes of the ‘greatest show on earth’ there may lurk an ugly truth. The It’s a Penalty campaign is working to prevent child exploitation. Hotels can play their part.

Around the world hotels are at risk from human trafficking, forced labour and sexual exploitation of vulnerable adults and children. ITP the International Tourism Partnership works with its membership of 15 global hotel groups to help them tackle the issue.

The risk of sexual exploitation is increased during global sporting events when tens of thousands of people flock to a country, and Rio 2016 is no exception.

The ‘It’s a Penalty’ Campaign, run by Happy Child International Foundation (HCIF), harnesses the power of sport to protect the world’s most vulnerable children from exploitation and abuse.

The campaign aims to prevent the abuse of children by foreigners who are attending major sporting events, such as the World Cup or the Olympic Games, by raising awareness amongst sporting fans travelling to the events, and worldwide, of these children’s increased vulnerability, the penalties for offenders and most importantly the ways to protect them.

Alongside the ‘It’s a Penalty’ Campaign, HCIF are also advocating for the global implementation and enactment of extraterritorial legislation, which will allow countries to prosecute their citizens for the abuse of children if the offence takes place abroad. Despite its importance, only 43 countries worldwide currently have such provisions in place. Out of the 205 National Olympic Committees, this amounts to a mere 21%.

‘It’s a Penalty’ was first launched in 2014, ahead of the World Cup in Brazil and received the support of several international sports personalities, including Gary Lineker, David Luiz, Frank Lampard, Oscar Ramires and Alan Shearer.

Now they have turned their attention to the Olympic Games. The UK National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Command warns that the high influx of visitors to Brazil for the Olympics and Paralympics - estimated to be 480,000 tourists - is likely to put vulnerable children at a higher risk of exploitation and abuse.

It’s a Penalty’ aims to protect some of the 250,000 children who are exposed to commercial exploitation and abuse in Brazil (UNICEF 2014) by:

  • informing people about the issue of child commercial exploitation,
  • educating people about the penalties for offenders,
  • encouraging people to “if you see something, say something”,
  • equipping the general public, sporting fans, tourists and local residents with the necessary tools to report a crime, ultimately protecting children from abuse and exploitation.

Hotels can help by raising awareness of the risk amongst their staff and encouraging them to ‘see something, say something’. In Brazil anyone can report something simply by dialing 100 for free, and they can download the Proteja Brasil app. Campaign flyers, posters and wristbands are available and there are films which explain the risk available here.

Olympic Gold Medal heptathlete Denise Lewis OBE is backing the campaign and said, “I’m delighted to support ‘It’s a Penalty’, as a mother and as an athlete who has travelled all over the world, understanding the plight of these young girls who are faced with sexual exploitation, particularly at major sporting events. We need to do something about it.”

Other campaign supporters include:

  • the UK, US and Brazilian governments, and law enforcement agencies such as the National Crime Agency, US Department of Justice, and Homeland Security.
  • working in partnership with Comic Relief, A21, Sysdoc, Global Hospitality Services Hotel Group, UNICEF.
  • the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and is recognised as part of Rio 2016 Abraca Sustainability & Legacy Programme.
  • international sports personalities, professional athletes and featured Olympians, including Gary Lineker, Usain Bolt, Denise Lewis, Tanni Grey Thompson, and Cathy Freeman.
  • other international NGOs, stakeholders and Brazilian local authorities.

Hotels keen to support the campaign and help protect vulnerable children from sexual exploitation can find more resources here.

Campaign Head of Communications Giselle Barboza said, "For us, GOLD means no children exploited and abused during the games. Join #itsapenalty campaign to raise awareness, watch and share this film."

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