Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

Combating sex crimes against children

Combating sex crimes against children

Child Sex Tourism is the commercial sexual exploitation of children by foreigners. It involves a person or persons travelling from their own country to another country (usually less developed), to engage in sexual acts with children while overseas.

The definition of child in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is “every human being below the age of 18 years”. It is a right of children through this Convention to be protected from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

As a party to the Convention, New Zealand takes the protection of children very seriously. It is one of several countries that have passed legislation enabling a New Zealander engaging in this kind of criminal activity overseas to be prosecuted in New Zealand.

New Zealand law

Under New Zealand law, protection that applies to children living in New Zealand applies to children living overseas as well.

As a result, it is an offence:

  • For New Zealand citizens and residents to engage in sexual conduct or activities with a child in another country
  • For anyone, in relation to a person under 18 years, to: arrange provision of; receive earnings from; and/or pay for commercial sexual services by that person
  • For anyone in New Zealand to help people travel overseas to have sex with children or young persons, or for anyone in New Zealand to promote child sex tours
  • For anyone to knowingly create, import, export, display, distribute or possess child pornography overseas and/or in New Zealand.

The penalties in New Zealand for these offences against children in any country are:

  • 7 to 14 years maximum imprisonment for engaging in sexual conduct and/or activities with a child under the age of 16
  • 7 years maximum imprisonment for offending relating to commercial sexual services from a person under the age of 18
  • 7 years maximum imprisonment for organising or promoting sexual offending.

The penalties relating to child pornography vary due to the different types of offences that fall within this category of offending. Depending on the type of offending, a term of 1, 5 or 10 year(s) maximum imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 or $200,000 are available. Some of the offences, in this category, have different penalties for individuals and body corporates.

It is irrelevant that, by reason of the age of the child or young person, the act is lawful in the country in which it took place.

Other countries’ law

A New Zealand citizen engaging in such criminal activity may be prosecuted under the laws of the country in which the crime is committed.

What can you do as a traveller?

  • Don’t be persuaded to do anything you suspect is illegal.
  • If you witness or suspect the sexual exploitation of a child, report it to:
    • the local police (overseas or in New Zealand)
    • your tour operator
    • your hotel manager
  • Remember that it may be difficult to judge a person’s age, but ignorance is no defence.

For more information, tips for travellers and how to make a report to ECPAT New Zealand - End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, Child Sex Tourism and Trafficking in Children for sexual purposes, see

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