Africa's kids are at the mercy of sex tourists
Conference reveals that tourism industry has done next to nothing about the scourge - but it has vowed to change
Every flight that lands in Africa could potentially be carrying a child sex offender.
Despite this, the travel and tourism industry across the region has not yet fully bought into a code to keep children safe.
The code, developed by ECPAT International, encourages airlines, accommodation establishments, tourism companies and the transport industry to train their employees to report incidents, provide travellers with information on the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and take a zero-tolerance stance against child sex tourism. ECPAT International is a global network of child protection organisations in more than 90 countries.
On Monday, ECPAT met with travel and tourism role players and civil society in Durban to discuss recommendations ahead of the International Summit in Colombia in June.
The meeting precedes the global Tourism Indaba which will be held in Durban until Thursday.
Since its launch almost 20 years ago, less than 300 tourism players across the globe have joined the ECPAT code.
“The number is low especially in Africa. We heard today many tourism players admit that child protection is one of the issues that they have not even put on their agendas,” said ECPAT Africa regional specialist Violet Odala.“It is because everyone thinks children’s issues are to be handled by government and civil society. They don’t think that it's their responsibility. That’s why there needs to be more awareness raised,” said ECPAT Africa regional specialist Violet Odala.
Speaking at the conference, Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (Retosa) acting chief executive officer Thembi Kunene-Msimang admitted there were no child protection programmes by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) body responsible for the development of tourism and regional destination marketing across the 15 Southern Africa countries.
“Currently there really is no specific agenda item in the chosen discussions within the space that I work in to deal with this topic,” she said.However, she planned to raise it in a report to tourism ministers in the region in August.
Discussions on child exploitation in travel and tourism were prompted by an extensive ECPAT global study which found that more children were becoming victims.
The study found:
• There is no typical offender. They are tourists, business travelers, migrant and transient workers, expats or civil society volunteers;
• The Internet and mobile technology have fueled the increase by creating new pathways for exploitation and reinforcing anonymity of offenders;
• Most child sex offenders do not plan the crime, they commit because there is an opportunity and they feel they can get away with it;
• Services for victims remain inadequate;
• Enforcement and prosecution of offenders are hindered by a lack of co-ordination and information sharing between authorities; and
• There are alarmingly low conviction rates for the sexual exploitation of children, which means the majority of offenders evade justice.