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Italy has the highest number of international sex tourists in the world, says a leading organisation fighting child prostitution and sex trafficking.
ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) estimates around 80,000 Italians travel abroad every year to pursue sex, particularly with young children in South America and Africa.
The organisation also expressed alarm about the rising number of young Italians pursuing sex tourism saying the trend challenges traditional stereotypes with many offenders now aged between 25 and 35 years of age.
Marco Scarpati, president of the Italian branch of ECPAT said another disturbing revelation was that many sex tourists were not pathological paedophiles, which account for an estimated 5 per cent of the total, but those looking for an exciting experience abroad.
“These are travelling sex offenders,” Mr Scarpati told The Telegraph. “They are people who modify their behaviour when they travel far from home whether for work, pleasure, study or another reason.” “Now we have a new generation of very young Italians and that is very alarming.”
The organisation, which operates in 73 countries, estimates one million – or around one third – of the world’s sex tourists travel abroad to pursue sex with teenagers and young children.
According to the organisation, Italians are going primarily to Kenya, Santo Domingo, Colombia and Brazil to have sex with children as young as 12 and 14 and sometimes even younger. ECPAT estimates 35 per cent travel regularly for sex.
Mr Scarpati said a growing number of young Italians are using their use of English and access to the internet to pursue sex tourism.
He said because child prostitution and pornography are dominated by organised crime, the biggest challenge was getting international cooperation from police and judicial authorities to fight the problem.
“Many government resources have been cut with the economic crisis but without more funds to fight child prostitution and pornography there is potential for many more victims,” he said, noting sex tourism was prevalent in Germany, Japan, France, the US and the UK and increasingly travellers from China.