Gambian lawmakers Tuesday passed the Tourism Offences Amendment Bill that seeks to toughen penalties for offenders in the tourism industry as well as establish a special tribunal to deal with perpetrators in an expeditious manner.
The bill seeks to amend and update the Tourism Offences Act 2003 by increasing the monetary penalties for a person convicted of an offence under this act, said the minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, who pushed it before deputies. "This is necessitated by the fact that over time, the fines have lost their weight of deterrence due to inflation," she told lawmakers, as she urged them to move and pass it.
The Tourism Offences Act in 2003, she explained, aims to limiting the social impact of tourism by law, noting that it deals with offences such as unlawful sexual advances, sex abuses of a child, child pornography, child trafficking and so on, committed by tourists or any other person in the Tourism Area of The Gambia. "Sections of the principal act that are hereby amended to cater for this increase are Sections 3 and 12 respectively," she indicated.
The Tourism minister told members that the principal act is amended in Section 3 by imposing a D10, 000 fine to replace the existing D5, 000. The amendment in Section 12 would see a replacement of D10, 000 fine with D50, 000. "Section 12 of the principal act reads: A tourist or any other person who in any place for a sexual purpose exquisite his or her genital organ to a child, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than D10,000 or imprisonment for a term not less than two years," she pointed out. The amendment of this section, she further explained, is to amend D10, 000 to D50, 000.
On section 14A, the Tourism minister said it also has an insertion, indicating that a person who conspired with any other person or attempts to commit, aid, abet or counsel the committing of an offence under this act is also liable on conviction to the same punishment as the principal offender.
"Honourable speaker, insertion of section 14A, the bill seeks to establish a special tribunal to deal with tourism-related offences in an efficient and expeditious manner. The tribunal has the juristic to try any offences committed under this act or within the Tourism Development Area which involves a tourist," she informed. The tribunal, according to her, will be an additional new section to the bill and will be very essential in expediting cases. "The tribunal shall be presided over by a principal magistrate to be designated by the chief justice who shall ensure that cases brought before the tribunal are conducted with this fine and given accelerated hearings," she concluded.
The Majority leader and member for Serrekunda East, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, said the bill will serve as a deterrent to all offenders in the tourism sector.
The deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Fatou Mbaye, noted that the bill seeks to address the challenges of the 21st century such as rape, pornography amongst others. "So we want to make this bill very responsive to the emerging challenges," she added.