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India becoming a hub for child sex tourism: NHRC study

Paedophilia is becoming increasingly rampant in the Indian tourism sector, says a new study conducted by the Indian Institute of Social Sciences. Hoteliers and shack-owners act as agents, luring young boys and girls into the sex trade

A 748-page study by the New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences reveals that sex tourism is escalating in India, prominently in the tourist hubs of Kerala and Goa. The survey shows that more and more children are being drawn into prostitution.

The report, 'Trafficking in Women and Children in India', which was sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission and funded by USAID, calls the problem an internationally organised crime that needs to be handled in a global perspective and with a coordinated plan of action.

The report also says that Kerala has overtaken Goa in exploiting children in this manner to boost its tourism industry. In places like Alleppey, Kerala, foreign tourists stay in houseboats, making houseboat sex tourism a new and thriving concept. This is a safe method, as there are hardly any raids on houseboats. The victims are often projected by agents as college girls in search of fun and excitement or wanting to earn a little extra money.

"It is hard to measure the incidence of child sex tourism as it is difficult to conduct quantitative research on such a clandestine and illegal industry," says the study.

Such offences generally go unreported, and the perpetrators are seldom brought to book. There is tremendous reluctance to speak about or report such crimes for fear of stigmatisation. In any case, the legal system in India has few laws that recognise and punish crimes related to child abuse -- another reason for the marked increase in such incidents in the country.

Sex offenders are shifting base to less developed countries due to increasing vigilance and action against paedophilia, particularly in western countries.

Child pornography is an allied crime that's even more difficult to address as it employs technically advanced devices and its tentacles are spread over cyberspace. Highly trained and equipped police units are needed to combat this menace.

Case studies in the report outline many examples that point to beach boys, shack owners and erstwhile victims of paedophilia as facilitating the procurement of young boys and girls for sex. In testimonials in the report, many children say they had sex with tourists for Rs 50 to Rs 200.

The report expresses concern over the rising figures of abuse of both male and female children by tourists. It alleges that enforcement agencies are turning a blind eye to the problem. The only way to tackle it is if destination countries enact and enforce stringent laws and punish those guilty of forcing children into the sex trade.

Source: http://www.newindpress.com/, January 16, 2006
Indo-Asian News Service, January 16, 2006