Pedophilia and Indian Tourism Industry
The file contains a presentation of a crucial child rights issue, Pedophilia. It also explains the situation of Indian Tourism and Pedophilia, the role of State mechanism and the role of different actors.
The Chilean Poet, Gabriel Mistral wrote, “We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is abandoning our children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot.”
It is estimated that in the Third world, 250 million children have to bear the burden of survival almost from the day they learn to walk. Various forms of Child abuses are prevalent in these countries and society and the law enforcing agencies have recognised its existence. Campaigns to make people aware of the problem and its magnitude have been taken up by Governments, NGOs and other movements as well. Laws have been established to regulate child labour starting with the Employment of Children Act, 1938. The Act was repealed and replaced by the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. Child abuse/exploitation is to be viewed as the denial of Child Rights- the exploitation of childhood and dignity. Child labour as one of its conventional manifestation is well recognised today. But the cruelest form of modern child abuse Pedophilia, child sexual abuse, still goes unrecognized. The modern tourism industry, which promotes this gruesome act, is not scrutinized for the role it plays. The nexus between child prostitution and the tourism industry is no more a hazy domain.
Indian Tourism and Pedophilia
While the international tourism industry has acknowledged the problem of pedophilia to a certain extent, their counterparts in India are yet to pay any heed to the problem. Tourism has been given the status of an industry in India. Tourism is seen to be a prime source of foreign exchange and a panacea to all the economic ills of a developing country. Most of the States have incorporated tourism in their development strategies. Beaches are being thrown open to tourism. Special Tourism Areas are being demarcated in the most environmentally sensitive region - the coastal region of India. The economic arguments in favour of tourism development have led policy-makers into ignoring the social costs associated with tourism.
The National Women’s Commission has found that Bangalore is one of the five major cities, which supplies 80 percent of the child prostitutes in the country. Based upon this finding, when the Karnataka State Commission for Women tried to investigate it further, they stumbled upon a major smuggling gang whereby girls from impoverished rural families were lured to Goa and pushed into the flesh trade. The coastal areas in Calangute, Candolin and Baga in Goa have been converted into a pedophiles’ paradise. Kovalam in Kerala, Mahabalipuram in Tamilnadu are also following in the same footsteps.
While efforts are being made by NGOs and the Women’s Commission to address the issue adequately, the Law enforcing agencies are still pretending to be ignorant of the presence of child Sexual abuse in India. The issue of Pedophilia gained prominence in India only after the arrest of Freddy Peats in 1991. He was charged with forcing boys into homosexual activities and for possessing drugs and pornographic material. Freddy Peats who claims to be an Anglo-Indian has been a resident of Goa for over a decade.
Investigations, after his arrest, revealed that Peats had been operating a pedophile den where boys between 6-16 years were forced into prostitution catering mainly to German tourists.
The role of State Mechanism
The Indian Government has on paper ratified and accepted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “all appropriate national, bilateral and multinational measures will be taken by the state to prevent abduction, sale, trafficking, and coercion to engage in unlawful sexual activity and forms of exploitation such as prostitution, pornographic performances”. The convention also states that all children must receive the opportunity to discover their identity and realise their self worth in a safe and supportive environment.
The intent and purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have not been incorporated in any Government Policy that would put an end to child prostitution. India is not immune to the problems of tourism related development. Existing State mechanism have to acknowledge the enormity of the problem and the shortage of applicable laws addressing trafficking in girls and boys and other abuses typical of the sex industry. Greater political will, more effective enforcement and adequate allocation of resources are needed to give effect to the spirit and letter of existing laws and conventions, policies and programmes. If the Government is not implementing these, then it is covertly abetting in the exploitation of the child.
The role of other actors
Here lies the role of other actors in addressing the issue adequately. It is not an easy task to procure facts and figures to understand the issue due to its disguised and shrouded forms. The role of Family, Educational Institutions, Local Governance and Media, particularly in the tourist areas where children are vulnerable to this abuse can not be ignored. Family rears the child first, who as an infant enjoys a long period of dependency, the family is the most effective initial agent to address the issue. Therefore it becomes important for the parents and elders to be sufficiently sensitised to understand the problem and act accordingly with sympathy and compassion.
Teachers and Educational Institutions should be sensitised and equipped to handle the problem. Educational institutions should create a friendly atmosphere for the students to feel free to speak of any aberrant behaviour they experience outside or inside the campus. The platform to tackle the issue of Child Prostitution effectively starts at the Panchayats, Municipalities and Corporations. They should foster close cooperation and coordination with NGOs and other interest groups to plan, implement and evaluate measures, coupled with campaigns to mobilise local people to fight against this evil of the Tourism Industry. The media should not shrug away from its responsibility of providing a platform for advocacy. There is a need for a continuous campaign to keep the issue alive. While the media, NGO’s, Panchayats, Schools, Colleges and the Government are players…the issue will not be resolved till the people take it on.