Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004
THE DIMENSION OF SEX TOURISM AND
INITIATIVES TO COMBAT IT
Mrs. Rupa RAI
"Trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination"; considering the preoccupation of the international community sex, tourism has its organized dimension.
Tourism brings money for the development of the country but in addition it also promotes sex tourism while a number of tourists are visiting the developing countries.
Sex tourism exists not only in the underdeveloped and poverty riddled societies like those in South Asia, where women and children are daily sold into situations of slavery and the worst kinds of sexual abuse. It also exists in the civilized world.
In South Asia, the trafficking of children for sexual purposes is one of the biggest problems. Nepal and Bangladesh are the main source countries for trafficking within the region. According to the available reports, it is reported that from Nepal 5,000-7,000 young girls and women are trafficked every year to different brothels of India. It is estimated that Nepalese children constitute 20% (40,000) of the estimated 200,000 prostitutes in India.
Sex Tourism in the context of Nepal
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is dependent on agriculture and tourism. Therefore the possibility of existing "sex tourism" is very high.
According to the survey of ILO, it 37% of the street children interviewed by the International Labor Organization said they are sexually abused and exploited. Older children are preferred to young; girls to boys, and the children living longer on the streets are more exposed to sexual abuses and exploitation. Frequently reported sexual abusers were tourists (67 percent), leaders of street children packs (24 percent), locals, and, disturbingly, even those posing as social activists.
The average age of street children initiated into sex exploitation was eleven, according to the survey. Though most were promised money, 30 percent say they were coerced. Eleven street children also said foreigners took nude photographs of them once they created a dependent relationship through provision of money, food, medicine and clothes. The most common forms of abuse were requests for masturbation, oral and anal sex. Hotels and lodges were identified as primes locales for abuse, followed by the client's home, temples, riverbanks and the street ("Trafficking and Sexual Abuse among street children in Kathmandu", ILO, March 2002 report).
There are many factors leading to ST:
- Unknown in the place (own privacy)
- Less expense (cheap in paying the price)
- Attraction towards new faces for the clients (ethnic groups)
- Poor implementation of law in the poor countries etc.
Who are affected?
The street children and child laborers, who work in guest houses and small hotels, become victims of pedophiles by the guest tourists who offer very little money and sexually abuse the poor children. Some of the street children are drug addicted, and the tourists take advantage to use such children.
Nepal has an open border with India. Therefore, along the highways from the border towns to Kathmandu and other cities, there are small and temporary hotels where Indian truck drivers, their assistants, and sometimes their friends and owners take night rest and are served Very tender and beautiful girls, work during the day at these hotels as laborers and service girls. These poor girls are brought from remote villages in the name of a good job in the city. Unknowing they are forced to act as comfort girls for their regular customers - mainly Indian truck drivers who are often away from home for a long period.
There are different surveys carried out by different organizations. According to the recent survey, the following facts and figures indicate the situation of the Nepalese children.
- 52% of the total population is children up to 18 years.
- One out of three children is a child laborer.
- The number of child laborers is estimated at about four million. But, according to ILO, the number of child laborers is 2.6 million out of 7.9 million children between five to 14 years of age.
- In Nepal, there are 46 thousand child porters who work in hills and industrial towns and are forced to carry 35 kilograms and 56 kilograms in towns and cities of plain area.
- There are 55 thousand domestic child laborers below 18 years; 22 thousand of these are in Kathmandu.
- There are approx. 35 thousand street children in Kathmandu and other cities.
- There are 17 thousand bonded child laborers who are forced to work in agricultural sectors and small scale industries.
Who are the perpetrators?
Investigation reports have revealed Nepal as a safe destination for foreign pedophiles.
Apart from tourists, most of the foreigners managing child care centers, who are seen as benefactors to the poor and underprivileged children, are sexually abusing the children.
The benefactors’ employers, customers and foreigners sexually abuse the street children, helpless and orphans, bonded child laborers and domestic child laborers.
According to several reports, several have been arrested and held in police custody in the past few years, but they were kept for a short while, because there is no specific law against pedophilia in our country.
Jean Jacques Haye (French passport No. 91RI 16405) and Christopher R. Fraser (British passport No. 500020801) - both managed childcare centres in Kathmandu – were arrested in May 1999, following complaints by children sexually abused by these two men.
Christopher was caught red handed by the police during a raid at a guesthouse in Thamel (down town Kathmandu and well-known tourist centre). Allegedly a notorious pedophile, Christopher is also suspected of making child pornography, with support from both Nepali and foreigners. In May 24,1999, a criminal ring associated with Christopher, kidnapped three children from the playground of the CWIN Centre for Children at Risk, who had testified to the police about his illicit behavior and abuses. He wanted to destroy all evidence and testimonies that prove his heinous crime. Fortunately, the Nepal Police with CWIN'S help has arrested the criminals involved and rescued the kidnapped children.
The dimensions of sex tourism can be measured in two realities.
Initiative to Combat it:
There has been significant progress in the acknowledgements of the rights of the child in the past years.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 – Nepal has ratified it.
The Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution - Nepal has signed.
ILO Convention no. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labor in 2000 – Nepal has ratified.
There was no law in Nepal against child sexual abuse. In September 2002, an amendment to the country code created a new offence of "unnatural sexual relations with a minor". Depending on the age and sex of the victim, an offender can be sentenced up to 16 years in jail. To this date, nobody has been convicted.
At the 2nd World Congress in Yokohama, Japan 2001, the representatives from governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, the private sectors and members of civil society from around the world gathered together and reviewed developments as a follow up process to strengthen their commitment in protecting the children. They also made their commitments on different aspects.
The information sharing after Yokohama has been carried out by the NGO Group.
The ministry of Women/Children and Social Welfare Council has reviewed the NPA and added the recommendations.
Caritas Nepal has undertaken the following activities to combat trafficking nationally and coordinating the regional program under APHD.
A. Awareness Program: SACHETNA- (Positive awareness)
- Radio program to create awareness on mechanisms employed by traffickers and how to avoid it and report to authorities, and true heart touching life stories of trafficked women and girls (includes role plays, interviews of the girls, songs, interviews of lawyers, social workers and govt. officials).
- Caritas Nepal joined together all NGOs (and NGO networks), civil society organizations and INGOs working on the issue to undertake review of situation in Nepal on trafficking and on the progress of National Action Plan. From this review the “National Report on Sexual Abuse and Trafficking of Children in Nepal 2001” was prepared. This report was presented to 2nd World Congress on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children, Yokohama 2001.
- Awareness sessions for social workers, medical personnel, school teachers, students, social work students, grassroots communities of our community development programs.
- Audio cassette (includes eight songs).
- Street dramas.
B. Rehabilitation Program:
- Rehabilitation Program: Includes rescue of girls, six-month physical and mental rehabilitation, skill and literacy training and village reintegration.
- The Rescued Women /Girls from the Brothels of India and Victims of Domestic Violence (The local partner organization of Caritas Nepal is ABC Nepal). Conducted a three year rehabilitation program with the support of APHD.
In 1999 a UN report stated, "Sex tourism is on the rise in Nepal, including increasing incidences of pedophilia, as the business appears to be shifting to Nepal from other countries in South and South East Asia".
(Due to growing Maoist terrorism in the kingdom, and other political and health problems in Asian countries, the flow of foreign tourists has decreased in recent years. In the last few years, incidents of child sex abuse by foreigners have not been recorded).
Pedophilia everywhere is hidden and elusive. It is even more so in Nepal. Due to cultural and social constraints the victims don't want to talk about it. Usually, the children cannot gather the courage to speak out. According to the police there are no reported cases, but that does not mean it doesn't exit because investigation shows that pedophilia is growing.
It has also been reported by some organizations that the massage parlors are involved in providing the young girls to the clients. Out of 95 massage parlors, 75 are engaged in such services.
The cabin restaurants are also on the rise where they keep very young girls to attract the customers. The girls are sexually abused very much.
According to the recent survey (CWIN) it has been found out that "SEX TOURISM" does not exist in an organized way in Nepal like in Thailand and in other countries. There are no particular NGOs working to combat it in Nepal.
There are many organizations working to combat trafficking and HIV/AIDS.
Resources to Help Combat Sex Tourism of Children
In order to effectively combat the problem of sex tourism of children, it is necessary that travel agencies, airlines, and hotels educate their clients about child victims of prostitution and the criminal/legal issues for traveling to countries where it is prevalent.
The tourists need to be educated about where to report instances of sex tourism of children or other forms of child exploitation that they may view. In addition to making the tourism industry aware of this problem, the governments of both the consumer and host countries need to increase their role in preventing it.
- We need to commit ourselves for what we can do to combat ST.
- Identify our capacity to combat ST.
- Need to formulate our strategy and actions.
- Impact assessment?