Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Booming sex tourism lures children to Goa

Booming sex tourism lures children to Goa - By Archana Jyoti

Panaji, May 8:

Sami, a 12-year-old from rural Belgaom in Karnataka and Shingur, a boy from Andhra Pradesh, do not seen to have much in common, except that they belong to marginalised families and both were drawn to Goa by the booming tourism that they thought would offer them a decent living.
But, ironically, like many poor and innocent kids, Sami and Shingur have fallen to the sex tourism which has menacingly spread its tentacles in this tourist hotspot.
When India’s first pedophilia case surfaced in Goa in 1990s with the arrest and conviction of Indo-German Freddy Peat, child rights activists hoped that it would ring alarm bell in the government quarters to make them sit up and save the children from falling in this flesh trap.
But along with Goa, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu also, there has been rise in the incidence of sex tourism, specifically child sex tourism. This was pointed out by a survey conducted by an NGO, Equitable Tourism Options (Equations).
Presently, over one million kids across the country are being sexually exploited in various forms while authorities have turned a blind eyes towards their plight, claim NGOs. Most of these kids either belong to the families which have migrated from the neighbouring states such as Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh or have runaway from their hometown due to various reasons, poverty being one of them.
Archana Tamang, who heads Unifem, South Asia regional office, says, "Many trafficked children come from economically and\or socially marginalised communities and in many cases from "dysfunctional" families as such, their access to protection mechanism such as quality education, support structures and other services is limited."
Ravi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an NGO working against human trafficking said, "It’s high time the government wakes up from its deep slumber and do something concrete to save the childhood of these unfortunate youngsters."
Though, Goa government have introduced the "Goa Children’s Act, 2003," the first of its kind for safety of the child, a lot remains to be done considering that sexual exploitation of children remain invisible and unreported.
NGOs on their part have come out with a Goa declaration to take the issue of exploitation and trafficking beyond the realm of problems. Taking cudgels on behalf of these voiceless kids, Unifem, in collaboration with NGOs across the country brought out the Goa declaration with an aim to strengthen the institutions which work towards preventing trafficking and gender violence.
As a part of the declaration, a website , was also launched to raise an awareness in the international media on issues concerning child abuse and trafficking.