Is the government doing enough to curb sex tourism?
Sex tourism is not a subject that’s widely discussed in India and that’s probably because Indians don’t like talking about sex. In fact one of the reasons for the flourishing child sex tourism in this country is thought to be caused by the lack of awareness amongst citizens. The other cause is our weak justice system and the apathetic attitude of the administration.
There’s a third reason. Atrocities against children have not been considered high priority crimes, well not until recently. Nowadays the government is talking of making improvements in the law and certain bills are pending, but the truth is that in India we do not have a centralised dedicated police unit to track missing children, even though according to an United Nations study, as many 45,000 children go missing every year. More than half the missing kids are from families with an income of Rs 2000/- per month ($50) and average family size is more than five. (Yahoo news) Quite a few of these missing children land up in sex dens. Both boys and girls are vulnerable.
And it’s not just the major tourist centers like Tamil Nadu and Orissa which attract a huge number of tourists yearly also get sex tourists. In fact all tourist destinations, whether Kerala, Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and Mumbai have this problem but usually only Goa is talked about.which are child sex destinations, but the whole country! Religious tourist spots in
It says here:
Global work against child sex tourism has revealed that individuals and groups with a sexual interest in children have learned to use the infrastructure of tourism and the backdrop of socio-economic exclusion that at times surrounds tourist centres to abuse children for sex.
What’s shocking is that the the child sex tourists often pose as donors to childrens’ homes and information on these ‘childrens homes’ has actually been given in the famous travel guide – Lonely Planet! One such ‘home’ mentioned in the Lonely Planet was shut down in Mahabalipuram after investigations.
A 2004 study on Trafficking in Women and Children prepared by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) with an NGO Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) has re-affirmed the fact that India is not doing enough, unlike countries like and , where such matters are discussed openly and acknowledged as a huge problem.
Poverty is seen as the main cause. Not only does the lure of money induce relatives of victims to turn a blind eye, the locals in tourist spots also ignore the goings-on as they depend on tourists for survival.
And pedophiles are choosing countries like India because it’s much easier to do it here and get away with it because of the lack of vigilance, unlike in their home countries. Also tourists who travel to another country are getting what they crave most – anonymity.
Problems with our laws:
We need to remember that it’s never just foreigners who are the ‘market’ for these children, whether in India or other underdeveloped countries. There is a domestic market too. In fact I am sure that there is a thriving domestic market in India. The figures for child abuse in India are very high. A study commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, reveals that 53% of the Indian children (who were surveyed) reported one or more forms of sexual abuse! And quite a few of them were abused by their own parents! So one can imagine what these ‘parents’ will do to strange children whom they find miles away from their home.
It’s a global issue
Developed countries have become more vigilant over the last five years and prosecution of child sex tourism offenses has gone up. About 32 countries have extraterritorial laws that allow the prosecution of their citizens for CST (Child Sex Tourism) crimes committed abroad.
There is in fact a formal Code of Conduct which has been developed specifically for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. Many countries are signatories to the Code including USA, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Japan and Thailand. Companies can sign the Code too. I am not sure whether any Indian company or state has signed the Code, but if it has, I did not find the information on the site.
By signing, the signatory commits itself to implement the following six criteria:
To establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children. To train the personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations. To introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children. To provide information to travellers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc. To provide information to local “key persons” at the destinations. To report annually.
Some initiatives taken by countries to curb CST:-
France: Has developed guidelines on CST for tourism schools. State-owned Air France allocates a portion of in-flight toy sales to fund CST awareness programs.
Brazil: Has implemented a national awareness campaign on sex tourism.
Italy: The country requires it’s tour operators to provide brochures in ticket jackets to travelers regarding its law on child sex offenses both within the country and abroad.
Thailand: It provides victims with shelter and essential services.
Gambia: A hotline to which visitors can call to provide information to authorities on sex tourists is available to citizens.
Senegal: It has established an special anti-CST unit within the national police force with offices in two popular tourist destinations.
And in India, the state of Goa: Film developers have to report obscene depictions of children to police.
This information (on the action by various countries) is a few years old, but I did not find recent information of such actions taken by governments of other countries.
About India, the most recent information is from this news report which said that the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal have set up anti-human trafficking cells. This report talks of the Integrated Anti Human Trafficking Unit (IAHTU) set up in West Bengal, this one about Andhra Pradesh and this one about Goa.
In our country, women and children are not valued very much. Why, buying a woman is ten times cheaper than buying a buffalo! (In Punjab a woman can be bought for Rs 3,000 while a buffalo’s price is Rs 30,000, according to this news report). If women are sold so cheaply, then what can one expect the price of a child to be?
CST has to become high priority for our government, and it’s as important to fight CST as it is to fight terrorism. It’s childrens’ minds we are talking about here, minds that can be damaged forever. I call it soul murder.
(The first picture is from United Nations and the second is by me and copyrighted)
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