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Is the government doing enough to curb sex tourism?

November 20, 2007

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 Goa which are child sex destinations, but the whole country! Religious tourist spots in 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.

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 Sri Lanka and Thailand, where such matters are discussed openly and acknowledged as a huge problem.

Why India?
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:

  • No special police unit to trace missing children or pedophiles specifically
  • Delays in prosecution
  • Corruption amongst lower ranks of the police force
  • Indian pedophiles deported to India from foreign countries are free. They cannot be prosecuted in India for a crime committed abroad
  • 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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    19 Comments leave one →
    1. November 20, 2007 10:07 am

      Indians are like ostriches… instead of tackling their problems, they bury their heads and hope that the problem disappears.

      Prostitution is there everywhere.. no matter how much the government tries to control it. but by banning it govt lost all its right to regulate the industry

    2. November 20, 2007 10:15 am

      had the prostitution been legalized, govt could have monitored the sex workers… ensured that they get fair wages, proper medical treatment, minors do not enter the profession and everybody has decent living conditions… and above all nobody is forced into the profession…..

      but tell me how can you regulate an industry that does not even exist???????

      and no wonder teenage girls from NE (because of their fair skin), Bangladesh and poor parts of our own country are traded like cattle…..
      whats worse is that we have polluted therapeutic places like massage parlors… etc.

    3. November 20, 2007 12:50 pm

      Ankur, thanks.
      I agree, prostitution will never go away and we might as well acknowledge it legally and regulate it. But that means acknowledging that the need for sex is normal, which Indians don’t want to admit!

    4. November 20, 2007 2:53 pm

      i really don’t know which India to believe to be true. It is just so contrasting! You have these spanky and impressive malls and new areas coming up. And you have these kids waiting outside begging!
      It’s like living in two worlds simultaneously. And most Indians manage it with ease.
      There is this blog http://weightofsilence.wordpress.com/ that writes about children’s condition in India. It is indeed deplorable.
      And Nita, as usual, eye-opening write up.

    5. November 20, 2007 7:36 pm

      @Minal:

      I am familiar with the blog!
      And thanks for your kind words.

    6. November 20, 2007 9:12 pm

      Well researched post.
      I don’t think many countries, least of all hypocritical India, have the gumption to acknowledge that sex is a personal activity and if there is trade in it, it is no business of the Government.
      If you don’t like this argument, here is a more practical one: prostitution is the world’s oldest profession for a reason. It is simply impossible to eradicate it. Decreeing that prostitution is illegal only opens the field to the thugs and drug runners, who have the wherewithal to bribe or fight the police. These unscrupulous people then extract the maximum by kidnapping young girls and selling them for profit.
      As far as prostitution is concerned, I think the only role for the Government is to ensure that there is no violation of rights (i.e., coercion or enslavement in any form).
      If the profession of prostitution is legalised, it will, in all probability, be corporatised and cleaned up, with agencies ensuring that clean women (and men) are provided to their customers. On top of that, the gun-wielding gangs will get out of it, as they would be unable to profit from a legal business. Just like smuggling went out with the removal of irrational import restriction laws.
      A voice raised against the concept of smuggling would have been shouted down in the 1960s and ’70s. We are in that same era as far as prostitution is concerned. There is no scope for a rational voice, and even less for a moral argument defending prostitution.
      As far as children is concerned, of course, till they are of valid age to give informed consent to sex, it is a violation of their rights to have sex with them. As such, all current laws should be enough to protect them. The very fact that it is the gangs which run the whoring business makes it difficult for the Government to rid them of this business. On top of that, the cops being already tied to their pursestrings, they would expectedly turn a blind eye to this grave offence.

    7. November 20, 2007 9:31 pm

      @rambodoc:

      Thanks Rdoc. For once I agree with every word you said!🙂

    8. Ducker permalink
      November 20, 2007 10:54 pm

      We have the same problem in Honduras, every year we are becoming more and more a Mecca for prostitution of minors and nobody gives a damn about it, I imagine that in India its even worse…

    9. November 21, 2007 1:27 am

      Huh Sex what nonsense is this This is india !! these things dont happen here!

      ask the meaning of pedophilia to any corporator, mla, or mp
      and guess how many will even know its meaning !

      ankur and doc – great comments

      nita poignent as always

      they dont even promote tourism properly

    10. November 21, 2007 2:05 am

      What India needs is someone like Susie Bright. And a mandatory school trip to Khajuraho.🙂

    11. November 21, 2007 2:25 am

      Nita, I read an article a couple of days back that said that child abuse increases if the kid stays with a single parent or with people who aren’t married to each other. There were reports of how the mother’s boyfriend threw the kid and stabbed him to death because he thought that the kid is a hindrance to his relationship with the girlfriend. The boyfriend now faces a death sentence and the girlfriend…a lifetime of misery. This might be an extreme example, but I feel that single parents need to take care of their kids and see how the kids are handled by their significant others. Even otherwise, a kid shouldn’t be left alone in the company of anyone- a relative, friend, neighbor etc- unless you’re really sure of their behavior. Most of the times, the kids are really perceptive to any kind of unpleasant behavior and such signals should be picked up by parents. This might seem like a basic thing, but I have seen instances where parents think that their kids are stupid and don’t give much importance to their feelings.

    12. November 21, 2007 7:21 am

      Ducker, thanks.
      Prax, the word pedophilia does not even exist in our penal code!
      Amit, Khajuraho is a good idea! But the teachers would die of shame!
      Ruhi, not only do many parents think their kids are stupid, I have also seen how parents blindly trust caregivers, particularly relatives. I agree with you wholeheartedly and I would say trust no one with the custody of your child if the child is below the age of 10. And after that only when you are sure of the caregiver and if your kid understands what child abuse is. In our country there are high levels of sexual frustration and that is one of the reasons for the high rate of molestation. Children who don’t understand are easy targets.
      Can you believe it, at Ajanta and Ellora I found that people were fondling the stone breasts of the sculptures!! Yes, even of the goddesses. And we call ourselves religious. Sick.

    13. November 21, 2007 1:21 pm

      Nita, I think you should probably watch “Born into Brothels”. It’s a documentary based on the kids who are born on the red light area in Calcutta. Also won an Oscar. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched.

    14. November 21, 2007 1:22 pm

      That is- if you already haven’t.

      Typo- who are born in* in the red light area of Calcutta.

    15. November 21, 2007 5:27 pm

      @ruhi:

      Ruhi thanks for the recommendation. No, I have not seen it, but if I get an opportunity I shall surely see it.

    16. ava permalink
      November 23, 2007 3:25 am

      The argument that prostitution should be legalized is flawed. Even countries like Amsterdam realized that it lead to surges in the exploitation of women and children and stopped legalization. In Sweden prostitution is no longer legal.
      The fact remains that very few women choose to go into prostitution. In industrialized nations and the women who go into it often come from abused homes and have many psychological problems and want to get out from the interviews I have seen on them . I think that men who need prostitutes are the unmanly sort who cannot win a nice wife or girlfriend and are insecure people who prey on troubled women often from low economic conditions. Nowhere has legalization shown a reduction in crime or abuse but rather and increase in violence and crime. The fact that there are eight million prostitutes in India highlights its shame.

    17. November 23, 2007 7:57 am

      @ava:
      In Sweden prostitution has become illegal only because buying of the service is illegal. The prostitute herself (or himself) is not punished. Link here.
      However the point that was being made in the comments was not so much that prostitution will reduce but that (as you rightly observed) there will be a reduction in crime and abuse as the industry will be regulated. If one takes it that prostitution by itself is exploitation of women (or of male prostitutes) then ofcourse making it legal may not help. But if one talks of the women being trafficked, children being abused, kidnapped or raped or even the proliferation of pimps, yes this will reduce.
      I am not sure whether you live in India but if you see the condition of prostitutes here as compared to that in sweden I am sure you will change your mind.

    18. December 13, 2008 9:37 am

      Mates,
      I think the ones who prefer children as victims is mentally ill.They exploit the poverty of India.All of the culprits are millionaires. They never think that these children are doing because of poverty.And think this ..If somebody use your children ,will you suffer.I can understand this mishap going on all over India.But Indian law is to be modified to catch these offenders.

    19. June 1, 2012 5:59 pm

      so what happened darling ,if u want sex and rape some one come on india i ll show you

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