Trip to Thailand? Planning a trip to the Mekong river, colourful floating markets, and rural villages? Southeast Asia is a truly beautiful and diverse region and continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Sadly, many tourists mix travel with sexual entertainment and openly turn to infamous red-light districts with bar girls, go go dancers, and ladyboys. Narrow streets are filled with girls and almost anything goes. Sexual aggression is very common and violence by men is now so widespread in bars and dance clubs.

Sexual exploitation and violence in travel and tourism is rampant in Southeast Asia and the risks of child exploitation are increasing. Domestic tourism is also involved in sexual exploitation of girls and tolerance of violence and commercial sex is a major problem. Offenders do not fear punishment and few victims receive the support they need.

Social tolerance for commercial sexual exploitation works against coordinated action to stop this exploitation and abuse. It is impossible to overstate the importance of local prevention, local reporting and local responses. Adequate funding is crucial for local prevention and response, and building networks at the grassroots.

In short, violence against women and girls is unacceptable anywhere and should never be trivialised. We all have a role in preventing violence and exploitation of women and girls. There is a pressing need to educate men and boys on respect and increase awareness in all communities about exploitation and all forms of violence and the role we can play in its prevention.