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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 76
July 12 , 2008

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Why do we need laws to control sex tourism?

Mohammad Shahidul Islam


Sex tourism is buzz words round the world. The subject is also controversial. It receives points and counter-points from the economy development and human rights authorities of sex tourism existed countries. Its definition definitely stands against the humanity of the society of ours. It is defined as traveling to a foreign country with the objective to take on sexual doings with others. Sex tourism has now mostly been identical with child abuse. The figure and statistics are extremely horrible and obnoxious. Sex tourism of children would therefore be defined as traveling to a foreign country with the objective to take on sexual doings with a child younger than the age of 18. The happenings of sex tourism are so serious that even the vulnerable country America for sex tourism has raised its voice louder. It is against the law for any citizen of America to travel to another country to engage in sexual activity with any child younger than the age of 18. Individuals who partake in this illegal activity are subject to prosecution in America even if they committed the crime on foreign soil. But what's the voice of some Asian countries? Would they like to indulge in sex tourism?

At the same time as much of the preliminary international attention on sex tourism of children focused on Thailand and other countries of Southeast Asia, there is no hemisphere, continent, or region unaffected by this trade. As countries develop their economies and tourism industries, this form of tourism seems to surface. Economic difficulties, civil unrest, poverty, and displacement of refugees all contribute to the growth of this industry. The United Nations International Children's Educational Fund (UNICEF) released a report couple years back estimating more than 1 million children, overwhelmingly female, are forced into prostitution every year, the majority in Asia.

End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), however, also reports increasing evidence of children being exploited in former Eastern Bloc countries. Reports of children entering prostitution, being exploited by foreigners and aid workers, and trafficked to Western European brothels are coming from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, and Russia.

South Korea remains a major destination in Asia for organised sex tours, the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) has revealed lately. According to the CRS's recent report entitled "Trafficking in Persons: US Policy and Issues for Congress,” South Korea is on the same level as the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong as major Asian destinations for sex tourism, while Indonesia and Taiwan were categorized as secondary destinations.

"We're making all-out efforts to present accurate information on Korea to politicians, government officials, academics and experts in the US,” a South Korean official in Washington told local Korean news agency ChoSun in response to the report. “It is sometimes possible that accurate information on the reality in Korea is not delivered. We'll take a proper countermeasure after finding out the truth first."

The Korean government has closed down brothels, “organised prostitution for foreign tourists has to all intents and purposes eradicated, and ordinary prostitution has been outlawed and drastically reduced,” after prostitution crackdown laws went into effect on Sept. 23, 2004.

“The latest classification by the CRS is, therefore, a blow for the Korean government, highlighting the need to disseminate accurate information to improve the national image,” Cho Sun news said.

The CRS report stated that US President George W. Bush on Oct. 18, 2007 issued sanctions against North Korea, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, which the US State Department had categorised, in its own human trafficking report, as Tier 3 countries for failing to address the problem of trafficking for forced labor.

Even where laws exist, say experts, implementation is often ineffective. Experts contend “tourists travel for the sole purpose of having sex with minors." According to Alexander Kruger, child protection specialist with UNICEF in Thailand, much of the demand for child sex is home-grown, while authorities turn a blind eye. "There is a lack of awareness among government officials,” he said. ECPAT, which campaigns against child prostitution, claims that Vietnamese children are being sent to Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Taiwan for abuse. "As a tourist destination, Malaysia has 'unwillingly' become a transit and destination country for human trafficking, especially for women and children in the sex trade," said Christopher Wee Soo Kee, director of Malaysian police investigations department.

Lured by the promise of Malaysia's economic prosperity and easy entry, police investigations reveal most of the sex "victims" in Malaysia are mainly from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and China who have been recruited with the promise of a job as a domestic or factory worker. Many people travel to these Southeast Asian countries just to have many different sexual partners without any attachments whatsoever. It is highly advertised in these countries and is not looked down upon, but moreover looked at as a means of making money for young girls. One woman is said to be involved with 5,000 tourists that visit the country in one year. That is why the STD [sexually transmitted diseases] and pregnancy rate in these countries are so high. These countries can not outlaw this form of labor because sex tourism brings in a lot of new people who bring a lot of money and also the prostitutes only job on occasions.

Canada is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to enforcement of its own child-sex tourism law recently. At least 146 Canadians have been charged overseas for sexually abusing children, a survey has found. It has been exposed; many more Canadians have likely bribed their way out of being charged in jurisdictions such as Thailand and Cambodia where children are easy prey for foreign pedophiles.

The data on Canadians charged abroad between 1993 and 1997 was released to Benjamin Perrin of the University of British Columbia through a Freedom of Information request.

"To date, the Canadian policy has been to not aggressively, or even actively, enforce our own child-sex tourism law and that needs to change," Perrin said lately. "It's one of the most under enforced provisions of the Criminal Code."

Canada's child-sex tourism law was enacted in 1997 and bolstered five years later to no longer require the foreign country where allegations of sexual abuse took place to consent to the charges.

Donald Bakker is the only person in Canada to be convicted under the law after he pleaded guilty in 2005. He received a 10-year sentence for 10 sexual assaults on girls between ages seven and 12 in Cambodia, where he videotaped his exploits.

Police forces globally are overwhelmed with child-sex cases in developing countries. It is urgently important to enforce child-sex tourism laws across the world.

The writer is a tourism worker.


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