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 Post subject: Child Sex Tourism
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 11:04 pm 
Action plan against child sex tourism

Six hundred advertisements for Sri Lankan children appeared on the internet in October 1997. It is believed that about 5,000 to 30,000 Sri Lankan boys are abused by paedophile tourists. Given the sensitive nature of the subject it is difficult to calculate exact statistics, and the above figure could very well be just the tip of the iceberg.

By Lakshani Fernando
@ The Island / 24 June 2006


Tourism, which is Sri Lanka’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner, accounts for about eight per cent of the country’s economic growth. Thus the growth of tourism represents a boost for the economy of the country, and offers employment opportunities to the people. Apart from the obvious benefits, tourism is sometimes associated with negative socio-cultural impacts, especially where exploitation of children are concerned. This phenomenon, known as Child Sex Tourism (CST), affects almost every country in the world, and is not exclusive to Sri Lanka. CST is a global crisis, and according to UNICEF about two million children are abused in the multi billion dollar commercial sex industry that includes CST. Sri Lanka has witnessed an increase in CST over the past twenty years.

Six hundred advertisements for Sri Lankan children appeared on the internet in October 1997. It is believed that about 5,000 to 30,000 Sri Lankan boys are abused by paedophile tourists. Given the sensitive nature of the subject it is difficult to calculate exact statistics, and the above figure could very well be just the tip of the iceberg.

The Sri Lankan Tourist Board with the assistance of UNICEF launched an action plan against CST. The launch was held at the BMICH on June 18, attended by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake, who was the chief guest for the ceremony. Acting minister of Tourism A. H. M. Fowzie and reigning Miss Sri Lanka Jacqueline Fernandez also attended the event.

"Among the worst victims must surely be those children who have been kept in a form of slavery to serve the wishes of child sex tourists," said the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Udaya Nanayakkara. "Tourism is being used as a vehicle for easy access to vulnerable children. The Tourist Board strongly endorse that immediate action is mandatory in order to protect children and the industry from the negative effects of child sex tourism."

Most children who are sexually abused or exploited by tourists are from poor families and communities. Poverty is the main driving force that leads these children into CST. Most of the children financially support their families through the money they receive, and this has become a major stumbling block in trying to convince some parents not to send (or "sell") their children to paedophiles. Due to their poverty sweets, clothes, food, money and even the opportunity to travel overseas are used as allurements to draw children into CST. Apart from poverty, globalization, migration, civil unrest, social and gender discrimination, irresponsible male sexual behaviour, weak legislative and judi cial systems, inadequate and non child-friendly policies are some of the other factors that have led to the increased number of CST cases.

However poverty or any other reason should not be used in any way to condone child prostitution. Thus "Zero tolerance for child sex tourism in Sri Lanka" was one of the recurrent phrases used in the action plan. The project will focus on the travel and hotel industry, and its main target groups will be tourists, children and adolescents, hoteliers, journalists, families and community leaders with the message "zero tolerance".

Speaking at the occasion Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake said he is happy that the Sri Lanka Tourist Board has initiated to draw up a National Plan of Action, together with its stakeholders to combat Child Sex Tourism in Sri Lanka. "Government alone cannot eradicate Child Sex Tourism in Sri Lanka. Combating Child Sex Tourism is an issue of all sections of society."

CST has become an important issue because it entails long term physical, psychological and social consequences. Therefore it is crucial that CST should be eliminated from our society.

"A child who is a victim of sexual abuse may suffer serious, lifelong or even life-threatening consequences," said UNICEF Senior Programme Coordinator Dr. Yasmine Ali Haque. "As the first country in South Asia with a national plan of action to combat child sex tourism, Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity to lead the way for other countries in the region."

The action plan aims to forge partnerships between all sections of society and the hotel and travel industry. Apart from a mass media campaign on television, radio and the newspapers, the message of "no child sex" will be displayed on in-flight magazines and videos, billboards, posters, car stickers and flyers.

The action plan will be in no way a discouragement to tourists to visit Sri Lanka. The fact that not all tourists are child sex tourists was reiterated at the launch of the action plan. A degree of discretion and tact was used in this campaign not to categorise all tourists as child sex tourists. However the messages of "zero tolerance" and "no child sex" will be clear and direct.

The project hopes to ensure that all tourists are made aware of the tourism industry’s zero tolerance to CST and the relevant laws and penalties. The project also hopes to maximise coordination with the police, social authorities, DCPCs and NGOs in tourist areas; and empower children and adolescents through life skills based to interventions to take more control of their lives, so that we can finally eradicate the menace faced by our children; our future.


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