Plan to stop child sex tourism
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Durban - South African hotels are signing up to help protect children from sex tourism and are on the lookout for suspicious guests who try to check in with underage companions.
South Africa has the right combination of factors, such as poverty and violence against women, which put children at risk of exploitation.
In a move to stop South Africa becoming a child-sex tourism or trafficking destination, there were certain factors that created an environment for the exploitation of children, said Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, a non-profit organisation and the local representative of the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct. The code is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Some of these realities are explained as follows: “The inflow of tourists, the ease with which people can cross (the) borders, societal beliefs that tolerate violence against women, high levels of poverty, and growing inequality since 1994 suggest that tens of thousands of children are at risk of sexual and other forms of exploitation.
“Domestic as well as foreign tourists may knowingly or unknowingly become involved in child exploitation, for example by transacting sex with an underage sex worker or buying goods from a trader exploiting child labour.”
Fair Trade in Tourism has placed an advertisement about the code in the Indaba Daily News that was distributed to delegates at the trade show at the Durban ICC.
It explains: “As tourism professionals, you are in a unique position to combat sexual exploitation of children. You have direct contact with tourists, colleagues and the local tourism community.
“Your company can make a difference by signing the code and implementing it as part of your responsible tourism or corporate social responsibility initiative.”
Across the world 1 265 companies have signed up.
Among 40 South African signatories is the City Lodge group.
More would sign up if Fair Trade in Tourism could get more funding to raise awareness, said Khaya Thwala, the stakeholder communications assistant.
“It is a sensitive issue and people don’t like talking about it. They don’t like to think this could happen in their hotel,” she said.
Staff at hotels that signed up would be trained to look out for suspicious situations, particularly if a child looked uncomfortable, said Thwala.
They would be taught how to establish the relationship between a child and an adult by asking the adult and child inoffensive questions and observing the reactions.
They would also alert security or call the police and embassy of the tourist, if they felt the situation was suspicious.
Hotel staff would also explain that a minor who is not in the company of a parent or legal guardian is not allowed to enter the hotel.
They would explain that what they were doing was part of the hotel’s commitment to protect children from child sex tourism, which is a punishable offence.
Thwala said that the plan was to extend the initiative into Africa.
According to Childline, one in three children calling were doing so in relation to sexual abuse.
Last year the Children’s Rights Centre in Durban said that there were a lot of children being brought in to be sex workers from other countries, such as Mozambique,
Child organisation Molo Songololo pointed out that there were also problems with “relationships” with older men, and that this was on the increase.
*For more information, visit the website www.fairtradetourism. org.za