October 21, 2004
UNITED NATIONS - Pop star Ricky Martin came to the United Nations to appeal to governments to declare war on tourists who sexually exploit children around the world.
Millions of children are drawn into prostitution every year, according to the U.S. State Department. One form of exploitation is child sex tourism by adults who travel to foreign countries.
"This is war. This is a battle we need to win," Martin said at a luncheon Wednesday attended by U.N. ambassadors and activists trying to end the practice. "This one is worth it. ... We're talking about the lives of children."
But the Puerto Rican singer said the activists needed help.
"We have the voice. But we don't have the power. We cannot do it alone. ... We need you. This is slavery, and this is the year 2004," he said.
He started the Ricky Martin Foundation about 10 years ago to help children in need, and recently initiated the People for Children Project as one of its endeavors to try to end child sex tourism and other illegal practices.
At a news conference after the luncheon, Martin said he came to the United Nations because "we need the help of leaders" and had found it "very rewarding and liberating that many ambassadors are willing to protect children" from sexual predators.
Martin has taken up a cause championed by President Bush, who called for a global campaign to fight the trafficking and sexual abuse of children in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2003.
The luncheon was sponsored by the U.S. government and World Vision, a major Christian relief organization, which have just launched an ad campaign aimed at deterring American tourists from sex tourism.
Several journalists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations questioned the timing of Martin's appearance - less than two weeks before the presidential election where the Latin vote is key in several states, especially Florida.
"I am here to talk on behalf of the children," Martin said. "This is not about being Republican or Democrat. This is about the help that I need, that we as activists need from leaders."