Child sex tourism booming in Gambia — UN

Child sex tourism booming in Gambia — UN
June 21 20:38 2016

A recent study by the United
 Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF), has identified Gambia
as one of Africa’s top destinations
for child sex tourism.
It said on Tuesday in Banjul that
poverty, corruption and weak law
enforcement, has undermined the
government’s efforts to protect
children from abuse.

It noted that hundreds of girls
and boys are sexually exploited in
the country, where every second
person lives on little more than a
dollar a day.
UNICEF accused some parents of
trusting tourists for financial
assistance, while the study
revealed that others turn a blind
eye to the sexual exploitation of
their children to earn extra
income.

Sheriff Manneh, an officer with
the Tourism Security Unit in 
Banjul, which was formed
specifically to focus on curbing
sex tourism, confirmed that in
West Africa, Gambia remained the
main destination for child sex
tourism.
He noted that yearly more than
150,000 people visit Gambia which
is only a short flight from Europe.
“Most tourists come from Britain,
Sweden, Norway, Denmark,
Finland, the Netherlands and
Germany.
Omar Jarjue, a tour guide in
Kololi, disclosed that many
tourists are coming for only that
reason, to have sex with children.
“We see it happening every day. It has become
a normal thing.

“As child sex tourism is more and more
heavily policed in Asian countries like
Thailand and Cambodia, lesser known
destinations like Gambia are gaining in
popularity,’’ he said.
The Child Protection Alliance (CPA), an
umbrella body of about 40 local non-profit
organisations, opened up that sex tourists
bluntly offer poverty-stricken parents money
for their children.
It said others befriend children who sell food
and drinks on beaches.
CPA said government has stepped in and
reformed several laws to curb child sex
tourism.
It said that a “Sexual Offences Act and a
Responsible Tourism Policy’’ are meant to
protect children.

It said that in 2014, the National Assembly
signed off on a special tribunal to hand down
hefty fines and stiff sentences to sex
offenders.
CAP said awareness programmes have been
launched to educate hotel staff, community
leaders, teachers and police officers.
“Hotels are now prohibited from allowing
adults to take minors to their rooms.
“We check the identity documents of all
visitors to determine their age,” explains
Sillah Darboe, a receptionist at the Bungalow
Beach Hotel in Kololi. If staffs don’t follow the
rules, they are suspended or fired, he says.
CPA National Coordinator, Njundu Drammeh,
said that the alliance has formed dozens of
watchdog groups, which monitor beaches,
restaurants and bars in holiday towns and
report cases of child sex tourism to the
authorities.

He lamented that corruption and weak law
enforcement create stumbling blocks in the
fight against child sex tourism.
Drammeh identified prosecution as the major
challenge to success, while sex tourists find
ever new ways to circumvent the law.
He said instead of the tourists to stay in the
big hotels, they now stay in small motels or in
privately rented out accommodation,” he said.
Drammeh said that part of the problem is also
that government needs to carefully balance
the fight against child sex tourism with the
need to promote the Gambia as a thought-after
tourism destination.
“Tourism makes up roughly 15 per cent of the
country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and
supports more than 80,000 jobs in the small
nation of less than 2 million people.

A Gambian single mother recalled that a
tourist offered to pay for Sirreh, her
daughter’s school fees and buy her clothes.
“He came to our house, took my daughter out
for walks and he gave us a lot of money.
“I thought it was a kind-hearted, charitable
act from a well-off European. Only much
later, weeks after the man had returned to
Europe, did Sirreh dare to tell her mother that
he had sexually abused her.
“I destroyed my own daughter, all because of
poverty,” cries Sanneh, with tears rolling
down her cheeks,’’ she said.
The woman said that every dollar spent by
holiday makers and business people is
important to keep the nation afloat, tempting
law enforcement officers to look the other
way.

(dpa/NAN)