Voluntourism and New Zealand: It's Time for Parliament to Intervene
This article is based on research by EJP's Pro Bono Team, consisting of Imogen Little and Lucy Kelly (Pro Bono team Co-Managers), Rosa Gavey, Carissa Fleury, Helen Loveridge, Jarod Davies, Lexi Finucane, Madeleine Hay, Renée Zhang and Yash Patel. Their extensive research was summarised into this article by Rachel Buckman, Eve Gamet, Nithya Narayanan, Anuja Mitra, Goergia Osmond and Milly Sheed of the Communications Team.
“Voluntourism” has hit the spotlights for all the wrong reasons. Voluntourism, or “orphanage tourism”, is a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work for orphanages and residential care institutions. However, many international organisations denounce voluntourism, as studies show it poses risks to children and adversely impacts their growth and development. What rules are in place both here and abroad to help deal with the phenomenon?
Risks Posed by Voluntourism
Voluntourists are often untrained and unqualified to interact with resident children. This means their presence can damage vulnerable children with “highly complex needs”, opening them up to potential abuse. High levels of voluntourism have created a demand for an ‘orphanage industry’, perpetuating the trafficking of children who are then exploited for profit. Because of this, many children have been unnecessarily institutionalised, particularly those who could be better cared for by their families. In most cases, voluntourists are unaware that the majority of children living in residential care have living parents. Institutionalisation can also occur through wilful deception by orphanage directors, seeking to populate their orphanages in order to meet the demand of voluntourists. Numbers of infants in this position are steadily increasing across the globe.Ignorant voluntourists provide huge percentages of funding for these residential facilities, particularly in countries like Cambodia. In this way, voluntourists are contributing to the commodification of children and see helping them as a mere “experience”. Internally, poverty and lack of access to education serve as additional factors driving the institutionalisation of children. This is in conflict with the United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children 2009, which provides that poverty should never justify the removal of a child from parental care.Furthermore, there is a salient link between the institutionalisation of children and child trafficking. Orphanage directors, particularly in developing countries, are quick to “capitalise on the voluntarism trend”, institutionalising children with families through coercive recruitment tactics. This can lead to resident children being kept in slavery-like conditions, forced to perform or beg in public, as well as directors keeping them in poor health in order to gain greater tourist sympathy.
Perpetuating the Harms of Residential Care
Residential care can lead to the physical, mental and emotional detriment of children. Studies show resident children are at risk of suffering attachment disorders, mental illness, and developmental delays. Additionally, there is evidence that links residential care to “prolonged, systematic and institutionalised abuse of children.” As adults, resident children can struggle to reintegrate into society and form healthy relationships. In this case, well-intentioned voluntourists simply exacerbate the issues of residential care. For example, adverse caregiving by voluntourists in a residential facility or orphanage means children are likely to demonstrate disorganised attachment behaviour. Children who form bonds with their caregivers, only to have that caregiver leave after a short time, are denied a secure attachment. This results in an ambivalence concerning their own self-worth, and children come to view relationships as hurtful.Residential care is arguably in direct contravention of the rights of children under international law. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that, where possible, a child should be raised in a living home by their family. Despite this, 80 per cent of children in residential care have family who could care for them, given the right support. This seems illogical when residential care is more expensive than family or community-based care. Many voluntourists are plainly unaware of the risks they thus pose to resident children and orphans.
A number of voluntourism companies operate in New Zealand, with several offering positions involving the care of vulnerable children. These include Lattitude Global Volunteering, Projects Abroad NZ, AIESEC, International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) and STA Travel. They advertise community roles based in a diverse range of countries, with many of these roles requiring little to no qualifications. For example, it is not compulsory for medical assistants on Lattitude’s Malawi placement to have a medical background, although they may encounter “a range of medical range of medical situations, from broken limbs to pregnancies and childhood vaccinations”. Similarly, STA Travel is one of several organisations that do not seem to require experience for teaching roles. It is apparent that many voluntourism companies emphasise enthusiasm over skills, suggesting that volunteers will learn on the job. It also frequently seems that the “tourist” dimension is highlighted more than the humanitarian aspect. One organisation tells volunteers wanting to travel to Cambodia to “explore the magical temples of Angkor” and “shop till you in drop in local markets”.Few concerns have been expressed about the companies above in terms of the wellbeing of children involved in their projects. However, IVHQ was recently criticised in a blog post by lawyer Hannah Reid and subsequently in the media. Reid travelled to Cambodia in 2014 while still a student, hoping to volunteer at a women’s rights NGO. Yet she returned home after a week due to concerns with IVHQ’s poor auditing process and lack of supervision (particularly of volunteers in roles like teaching and caring for disabled children). According to Reid, IVHQ handed most of the control over to their country partner, and did not intervene when volunteers were left with nothing to do or treated children in their care like “tourist attractions”. Volunteers were allegedly recruited off the street with no prior criminal background checks and given little training on navigating language barriers.IVHQ states that there is “little factual basis” to Reid’s claims. Notably, however, they have stopped placing volunteers in orphanages. The term “orphanages” can be actually be misleading when referring to residential care facilities in countries such as Cambodia, as a recent report from the Cambodian government revealed that almost 80% of the children living in 406 care facilities still had a parent. Families are encouraged to send their child away to relieve an economic burden, allowing these institutions to reap a profit while placing children in unsafe environments. In 2015, the director of Our Home Orphanage — previously the site of an IVHQ placement — was arrested on 9 charges of child sexual abuse. The risks that children can face in orphanages are further exemplified by the stories of people like Sinet Chan. Chan, an ambassador for the Cambodian Children’s Trust with Tara Winkler, says that she lived in an orphanage where children ate mice and she was physically and sexually abused by the director. She and Winkler have supported Australia’s introduction of legislation recognising orphanage trafficking as modern slavery, and hope that other countries do the same.Legislation has been enacted to eliminate human trafficking and forced labour, and to enable victims to receive justice. Examples of such legislation can be found in the Netherlands and France.
In 2000, the Netherlands made the bold move to decriminalise prostitution in an effort to regulate the market and protect workers. Removing prostitution from the Dutch Criminal Code also attempted to offer sex workers social security, like any other employee. However, this has also led to a significant amount of sex tourism, and opened a potential market for human trafficking.In 2005, Article 273f of the Dutch Criminal Code came into effect. This increased the imprisonment term for human trafficking to eight years, broadened the definition of forced labour, and removed the idea that trafficking is constrained to cross-border travel. These changes signalled a significant move within the legislature to impose harsher penalties and crack down on human trafficking in the Netherlands. Further penalties apply when the offence is committed by two or more working in cooperation, or when the victim is a child under the age of sixteen. In such circumstances, the maximum imprisonment sentence is twelve years.Approaching the topic of decriminalisation leads to controversy around the necessary balancing act that must be taken when addressing the issue. Autonomy and privacy are paramount, but introducing a legislated protection scheme for those in the area would help to ensure against harm. Decriminalisation has led to certain areas of prostitution going under the radar, such as escort services. In addressing this, Cabinet promised to invoke further legislation surrounding prostitution. Their central idea was to implement a national register, through which prostitutes would have to be registered to be able to work. This would mean ‘buyers’ would have to check whether a prostitute was registered or potentially the victim of human trafficking. However, this has not been implemented.
France has a number of Articles in their Penal Code 1994 to target forms of exploitation, including through human trafficking, forced labour and sexual exploitation.Article 225-13 of the Penal Code imposes a fine of 150,000 euros and 5 years’ imprisonment for obtaining unpaid services or a payment clearly unrelated to the work done, from a person whose vulnerability or dependence is known.Related to this, Article 225-14 imposes a fine of 150,000 euros and a 5 year imprisonment term for “subjecting a person, whose vulnerability or dependence is obvious or known to the offender, to working or living conditions incompatible with human dignity”.France also has a number of laws to prevent and punish human trafficking. Under Article 225-4-1 of the French Penal Code, human trafficking attracts a fine of 150,000 euros and seven years’ imprisonment. This punishment increases if the victim is a minor.French courts have struggled however with successfully punishing those who force others into slavery or exploitative practices. This was brought to light by the case of Siliadin v France, in which a young girl was effectively used for slave labour, refused education and could not leave. The French Court of Appeal failed to convict her abusers under the Articles, due to broad definitions of “vulnerability” and “incompatible with human dignity”. As well as leaving the young girl without justice, the case identified France’s key weaknesses in preventing forced labour.The European Court of Human Rights held that France was violating their obligations to prosecute those forcing others into slavery or compulsory labour, under the European Convention on Human Rights. In response to this, France ratified the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention 1930, in 2016. This committed member states to prevent, protect and remedy forced labour. France also adopted a duty of vigilance law through Article 225-102 of their Commercial Code, requiring businesses to monitor their practices for human rights abuses. The Articles put in place regulations to ensure businesses operate vigilantly and effectively work towards elimination of exploitative practices in their supply chains.In 1992, Interpol created a permanent working group to specifically target crime against children. This allowed for specialised services to remain in contact, easily exchange information and effectively make change. In 2000, a similar structure was implemented for targeting the trafficking of women for prostitution.While the operations of Interpol, the French Penal Code, the Protocol of 2014 and duty of vigilance now work to prevent exploitative practices and protect victims, it is suggested that further work must be done to prevent another case like that of Siliadin v France. A recent Bill submission to amend sexual consent issues in instances of child sexual abuse, to include statements that those under the age of fifteen cannot consent to sex, would help to better protect victims and prosecute offenders.
From 2004 until 2016, more than 700 suspected human trafficking and other slavery related cases were reported to the Australian Federal Police. This has been possible due to the legislation in Australia that aims to combat modern slavery in all its forms.The Crimes Act 1900 was the first piece of legislation in Australia to criminalise modern slavery, but is relevant only for the Australian Capital Territory. Part 5 covers offences relating to sexual servitude, and defines it as a person providing sexual services who is not free to stop providing those services or leave the location at which they provide the services. Under section 79(1) of this act, sexual servitude is committed when a person’s conduct causes another to enter into or remain in sexual servitude, and they are reckless in doing so or intend someone to enter into sexual servitude. The offence in punishable by 15 years imprisonment, or 19 years for an aggravated offence.The Criminal Code Act 1995 covers all types of servitude of any kind, and applies to all Australian states. Slavery, deceptive recruiting, and people trafficking were included as new offences in this act. Criteria required to convict a person of any of these crimes includes showing that the defendant intended to force a person into their situation, they assisted in the entry or exit of Australia to allow the crime to proceed, were deceptive in the information they provided the victim with relating to their ability to leave their place of work or the provision of sexual services in their line of work, or they did not obtain consent from the person in the cases of organ trafficking and forced marriage. The Criminal Code Act 1995 also includes sections on child sex offences. Under these provisions, a person can be convicted outside of Australia if they were a citizen or a resident at the time of the offence, and the act was performed outside of Australia. Sentences for each of the offences can be anywhere between 4-20 years for a basic offence, with aggravated offences imprisoning people for up to 25 years.There have been two cases that best show the interpretation and application of the law of the Criminal Code Act 1995. In R v Kuavong, a 9-year old girl was required to perform sexual activities for clients at the defendant’s Thai massage parlour, either fully or partially naked, while being indecently touched by clients. The defendant was convicted of child trafficking, procuring a minor to engage in prostitution, maintaining a sexual relationship with a minor and procuring a minor to commit indecent acts. Being related to the minor was an aggravating factor that contributed to her lengthy sentence of 28 years. The court held that the conduct of the defendant was ‘singularly abhorrent’ due to the age of the minor and the degree to which she had been exploited for financial gain.R v Tang best exemplifies slavery under the Criminal Code Act 1995. In 2002, five Thai women travelled to Australia and voluntarily entered into an agreement with the defendant to work as prostitutes. The defendant took away their passports and return tickets, kept them locked in the brothel, and restricted their movements severely. When the brothel was raided in 2003, the defendant and two others were arrested. The defendant was charged under section 270.3(1)(a) of the Criminal Code Act 1995, for possessing a slave or exercising over a slave powers that attach to the right of ownership, and was sentenced to nine years imprisonment. The defendant applied and was granted leave to appeal, but was ultimately unsuccessful.In 2017, the Australian government initiated a parliamentary inquiry considering whether a modern slavery act should be implemented. This has been supported by the creation of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 in New South Wales, which has combating modern slavery and raising awareness about the prevalence of modern slavery as its main objectives. There has been bipartisan support for this legislation, however there are still concerns over whether it will actually be effective.Australian legislation is relevant to the exploitation of children in Southeast Asian orphanages. The sections relating to servitude, forced labour and child sex offences within the Criminal Code Act 1995 are the most useful. With the inclusion of section 3(e) of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 to raise awareness around modern slavery, the aim would be to educate tourists about the exploitation of children in these orphanages, encouraging them to not donate money and continuing on the cycle of exploitation.
Hong Kong does not have a general anti-trafficking statute; rather, a variety of different statutory provisions are relevant in this domain. Section 129 of the Crimes Ordinance makes it an offence for a person to bring into Hong Kong — or take out of Hong Kong — another person for the purposes of prostitution.
Section 126 of the Crimes Ordinance criminalises the abduction of an unmarried girl under the age of 16. Section 127 similarly criminalises the abduction of an unmarried girl under 18 for sexual intercourse.The Employment of Children Regulations pertain to child labour. These Regulations prohibit the employment of children under 13 in any form, whether or not the child is being paid. However, it is not possible to impose custodial sentences for these offences. As seen in Attorney-General v Ho Yuk Chun, a trial judge is able to make some inferences based on general knowledge, meaning an in-depth inquiry into whether the child was actually involved in the work is unnecessary.
Employee Protection Provisions
The Employment Ordinance protects against working conditions that might give rise to modern slavery. The legislation prohibits unjustified deductions from wages, creates a requirement for rest days and requires employees to be paid on time.
The Bill of Rights imposes an obligation on the Special Administrative Government to actively protect its citizens. In ZN v Secretary for Justice (No 2), the Judge interpreted Article 4 of the Bill of Rights to offer a wide interpretation that is capable of evolving to cover the emergence of new, modern forms of slavery. For labour to be ‘forced’ or ‘compulsory’ under Article 4, it must carried out under threat of a penalty, and the victim must be working involuntarily.The lack of investigation by authorities into human trafficking is a significant problem in Hong Kong. According to the United States Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, only 15 cases directly related to trafficking were investigated by authorities in that year.
The maximum penalty for a s 129 conviction is 10 years imprisonment, but many sentences imposed are significantly lower than this maximum. In HKSAR v Khampuanbut La Iat, there were several convictions under s 129. For each of these convictions, the starting point was 24 months imprisonment, served concurrently. In HKSAR v Law Wai Kon, a man who was convicted of a single charge under s 129 received a starting point of 20 months imprisonment.
Application to Orphanage Voluntourism
Section 129 would have little or no application to child exploitation in orphanages, as this provision is only relevant where the purpose of the activity is prostitution. Section 126 would likely be relevant, however, as it could apply to girls abducted to be put on display in an orphanage. However, it is debatable whether s 126 requires the abduction to be for a sexual purpose.These offences all require the lack of parental consent. It follows that situations where parents willingly give up their children to orphanages would not fall under the statutes. This could cause problems when prosecuting people under these provisions.Most of Hong Kong’s laws would be difficult to apply to voluntourism and the exploitation of children in orphanages. Where provisions do apply penalties are often too lax, and the offences are rarely investigated or prosecuted. Evidently, orphanage exploitation and voluntourism are largely unregulated in this country, and there is a need for more specific protections.
The United Kingdom has made international commitments to combat slavery. The recent enactment of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was, in part, driven by the need to consolidate and enforce these obligations.The legislation includes the offences of slavery and human trafficking, along a multitude of other mechanisms. Part 2 creates two civil prevention orders under the act. Part 3 enables enforcement officers to stop, board, or detain any maritime ship. Part 4 establishes the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Part 6 requires companies to provide statements showing their supply chains are slavery free. Finally, the act attempts to provide protection for victims. Section 45 provides a statutory defence for victims compelled to commit an offence, and section 53 allows leave to stay in the United Kingdom to be granted to domestic workers determined to victims of slavery.In 2017 the Home Secretary commissioned a report that found that the MSA had not yet led to significant improvements in the police’s response to slavery. This reflects the core issue with the legislation – it does not go far enough. One area this applies to is the support given to victims. A 2017 report attributed the disappointing number of prosecutions to this lack of support. Perosha Chandran claims that “unless victim protections is enshrined in law, you can forget it when it comes to securing convictions of traffickers.” Another criticism is the absence of penalties to ensure companies account for their supply chains. This is a practical issue, with the International Law Office reporting a widespread lack of compliance and a seemingly indifferent response to this by officials.Exploitation of children in orphanages incentivized by tourism, ‘voluntourism’, may be another area where the law does not go far enough. Theoretically, the ‘supply chain’ of a company could include these children and reports could be required. Yet, the £36 million turnover threshold is generally too high. However, the offences in the MSA apply if one “knows or ought to know”. Barrister Sophie Wood argues companies should be held liable for offences under the act, meaning there may be a viable route to prosecute voluntourism businesses.
Recommendations For Individuals and Governments
UNICEF, Save the Children and ReThink Orphanages recommend various tactics for individuals and governments to reduce the dangers of voluntourism.Individuals are advised to refrain from volunteering at residential care institutions. Instead of donating to these types of facilities, individuals should redirect their support to family or community-based care.Governments are advised to tackle the problem in four main ways:
- A Promoting Family and Community-based Care:
- Providing livelihood support to families so that they can care for their children at home.
- B Reducing the Prevalence of Residential Care:
- Focusing on the reintegration of children back into families and the community.
- C Warning Tourists About the Dangers of Voluntourism:
- Initiating campaigns against child trafficking (following Australia as an example).
- D Developing Strong Legislation and Policy:
It is high time for a legislative response in New Zealand. There is international precedent for a legislative response and we implore Parliament to act forthwith.—The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Equal Justice Project. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official. The Equal Justice Project makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The Equal Justice Project will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.Featured image source: https://matadornetwork.com/change/why-you-shouldnt-participate-in-voluntourism/ “Fact Sheet: Children in Residential Care Institutions” ReThink Orphanages ; and “Submission to the Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia” ReThink Orphanages <www.rethinkorphanages.org>. See “Submission to the Inquiry”, above n 13. “Community Worker” Lattitude Global Volunteering <https://lattitude.org.nz>. “Volunteer and Teach Kids in Thailand” STA Travel <www.statravel.co.nz>. “Teaching Children in Cambodia” STA Travel <www.statravel.co.nz>. Hannah Reid “9 Things I Wish I Knew Before Volunteering/Interning with IVHQ” The Voluntourist <www.iamthevoluntourist.com>. Reid, above n 4. Nicholas Jones “Voluntourism warning: 'A dash of enthusiasm does not qualify'” (10 February 2018) NZ Herald <www.nzherald.co.nz>. Nicholas Jones “Kiwi company ends controversial orphanage placements” (10 February 2018) NZ Herald <www.nzherald.co.nz>. Kingdom of Cambodia Mapping of Residential Care Facilities in the Capital and 24 Provinces in the Kingdom of Cambodia (Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, February 2017) at 16. Jones, above n 6. Reid, above n 4. Jones, above n 6. Jones, above n 6. Dina Siegal “Human trafficking and legalised prostitution in the Netherlands” (2009) 12(1) Temida 5 at 6. Joyce Outshoorn “Policy Change in Prostitution in the Netherlands: from Legalisation to Strict Control” (2012) 9(3) Sex Res Soc Policy 233 at 235. At 241. Wetboek van Strafrecht 1881 (NL), Article 273f (3). Outshoorn, above n 14, at 237. At 233. At 243. Penal Code 1994 (France), Art 225-13. Art 225-14. Art 225-4-1. Siliadin v France (73316/01),  2 ECHR. Rapport D’information Despose par la Mission D’information Commune sur les Diverses Formes de L’esclavage Moderne No 3459 (Assemblee Nationale, 12 December 2001) at 52. Andrea Nicholson, “Reflections on Siliadin v France: slavery and legal definition” (2010) 14 Int J Hum Rts 705 at 706. Interview with Myriam El Khomri, Labour Minister for France (International Labour Organisation, France commits to ending modern slavery, 18 July 2016). European Coalition for Corporate Justice “French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law – Frequently Asked Questions” (23 February 2017) http://corporatejustice.org/at 4. Rapport D’information Despose, above n 24. At 152. D’orientation et de programmation pour une meilleure protection des mineurs victimes d’infractactions sexuelles 2018 (818). Fiona McGaughey, Dave Webb and Peta-Jean Hogg “Should Australia have a Modern Slavery Act?” The Conversation (online ed, Australia, 13 June 2017). Section 78(1). Section 79(1). Above n33. Criminal Code Act 1995, Sections 270.3, 270.7 and 271. Section 271.2. Sections 271.2 and 271.7B. Sections 270.7(c). Sections 271.7A and 270.7A(1). R v Kuavong  QCA 310. At . At . R v Tang  VSCA 134. At . Andrew Probyn “Federal parliament moves to eradicate modern slavery” ABC (online ed, Australia, 5 June 2017). Modern Slavery Bill, section 3. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. With the Best Intentions… A Study of Attitudes Towards Residential Care in Cambodia (Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Cambodia, 2011) at 24. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. Colleen Doyle and Dante Cicchetti “From the Cradle to the Grave: The Effect of Adverse Caregiving Environments on Attachment and Relationships Throughout the Lifespan” (2017) 24 at 206. At 205. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, art 7 and art 9. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. With the Best Intentions, above n 16, at 31. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. With the Best Intentions, above n 16, at 32. “Submission to the Inquiry”, above n 13. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. With the Best Intentions, above n 16, at 25 and 31. “Children in Residential Care Institutions”, above n 13. With the Best Intentions, above n 16, at 45–46. The United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children 2009, art 15. “Submission to the Inquiry”, above n 13. 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