24 October 2012

Gambia: Say No to 'Child Sex Tourism'


The season is gradually kick-starting and there is need for every stakeholder and tourist in The Gambia to know and have it at the back of their minds that child sex tourism (CST) is prohibited and not allowed indestination Gambia. Child sex tourism is a form of child prostitution or a commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in society and in tourist areas.

Most children that are engaged in this act are sometimes lured into it through one way or the other. And this could be through abduction, coercion, and other similar ways or conditions. And whatever the condition it is purposely for commercial.

Since the Gambia government attaches great importance to the protection of the citizenry and tourists who come to visit this peaceful and lovely country, so it is important for stakeholders in the tourism fraternity and other partners to come and participate in the protection of children in the beaches and other places with continuous rising awareness in the society as regard the dangers of child abuse and some of the complications involved in it.

Taking to consideration the fact that to tackle the issue of CST is not the responsibility of a single sector or stakeholder. But many different actors must join hands in order to fight against the inhumane act. Travel and accommodation service providers can play a direct role towards preventing CST. NGOs, child-rights agencies that focus on children's rights and welfare and safety agencies must all be actively involved in the fight against CST.

The CSEC consists of criminal practices that reduce human dignity and respect and threaten the physical and psychological integrity of children. The CSEC is a violation of children's rights. It comprises sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object or product for sale.

There are many interrelated forms of CSEC but the major ones are prostitution of children; child pornography; trafficking of children for sexual purposes and child sexual tourism. And the players and actors are tourists. Child sex tourists do not have identifiable characteristics.

They look like most other tourists. They come from diverse culture, occupations and social classes. They are of all ages, married and single and are business and leisure travelers. Most tourists do not intentionally travel for the sole purpose of seeking sex with children. They are considered 'situational abusers.'

These are individuals who take advantage of the availability of children for sexual exploitation at a destination. Situational abuser differs from 'preferential child sex abusers' and pedophiles. Preferential abusers are individuals who prefer children who have reached or passed puberty as sex objects. Pedophiles have a true personality disorder, and their sexual interests focus on pre-pubescent children.

Tourism industry is not responsible for the growth of the sexual exploitation of children in tourism. Reputable and responsible tourism businesses do not knowingly or willingly participate. However, their services and facilities may be used. Tourists plan and book travel arrangements, travel on various modes of transportation and use tourism facilities at the host destination including accommodation - hotels, and so on, eating and drinking establishments. Some businesses in the industry knowingly publicizes, organize and received sex tourists.

The operators of some establishments and premises accommodation, entertainment, leisure, among other allows their facilities to be used for the act. These are called 'direct involvement.' On the other hand, 'indirect involvement' is about tour operators, travel agents and carriers especially airlines that become aware that they are used as vehicles to carry obvious or potential offenders to a destination.

Children do not participate in sex and prostitution by choice. Children are sold, coerced or 'recruited' by individuals, business people or even family members. Most children come from poor or dysfunctional families. Other children, such as street children, are forced into it for survival or to get money to buy drugs.

Residents and citizens of a host country as well as organized crime organizations are also involved in CST. Tourists are often willing to pay large amounts of money for sex with children. Those who 'sell' or trade children usually get high profits from the deal. How does this normally happen? This is one of the question people outside the sector always ask. Well, let us take the following case scenario as an example of how it does happen.

Ms K has a brothel somewhere around the TDA. Her assistant is Ms S. K works closely with S and N to recruit young girls for the sex trade. N and S sell a few items in the street, just in front of their illicit sex trade. They are very clever in the way they approach girls for recruitment into CST. They target children 15-16 years old. Their victims are traded for sex like an object. The brothel is highly scorned by the community where it was established. S approached one girl, called F, with the intention to recruit her into the ring.

One day she invited F for a dinner and they had a nice time together. N and S invited F again, this time for a barbecue and taking a walk with two tourists. After the barbecue and beach walk, F went home with a nice gold watch. They asked her to come to a Sunday nightclub. F knew what they were up to. She did not turn up. The story continues.

Firmly rooted into cultural beliefs. Certain traditions and customs make children vulnerable to sexual exploitation. In some countries, sexual exploitation of children is discussed as a religious practice. Another thing is discrimination and ethniIn the issue of child sex tourism there are factors and forces that made them vulnerable. The CSEC includes traditional practices that are oftencity. In society minorities are often vulnerable to exploitative forces that take advantage of their lack of official status or low regard.

rresponsible sexual behavior and myths as many men value or enjoy the experience of taking a girl's virginity, whether through marriage or otherwise. These as evidence of their masculinity and as well there are many popular misconceptions or myths surrounding sex with a virgin or with a child.

What many think to be chief responsible for this is poverty and economic disparity. Poverty may be a principal catalyst or factor in many cases; it does not by itself adequately explain a child's vulnerability. This is due to the fact that many children from poor families escape sexual exploitation, while many children whose families are well of fall prey to the act. Poverty limits the ability of families to provide a safe environment for the child to grow and develop, thereby creating conditions which increase the vulnerability of their child to sexual exploitation. This is because cash is by no means the only form of compensation that offenders use to buy sex with children.

In addition, domestic abuse, neglect and condoning; family breakdown or dysfunction; emergency or disaster situation and conflicts, living in the street; consumerism; peer pressure; sense of superiority/inferiority complex; inadequate laws; rural-urban drift; information technology; among other factors made children to be vulnerable to child sex tourism.

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