Panjim: Christine Beddoe shared her observations on the problems of prosecuting travelling sex offenders, focusing on cases of British sex offenders travelling to India at a consultation and press meet held on 18th November 2014 at Miramar residency, Panjim, by a Forum of NGOs comprised of Caritas-Goa, Centre for Responsible Tourism, Children’s Rights in Goa, Jan Ugahi from Goa, Vikas Samvad from Madhya Pradesh and EQUATIONS. 30 participants were part of the consultation. Christine Beddoe is presently serving as Special Adviser on children to the British Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Modern Slavery Bill.
Beddoe stated that between 2011-2012 66 Britons were arrested for child abuse with a number of them holding teaching / volunteer positions when traveling abroad. Another trend is the setting up of orphanages, where the child sex offender first builds a good profile within the community and once trust is built up, the abuse begins. These orphanages are often set up on the fringes of tourism destinations but attract the friends / acquaintances of the offender.
Travelling child sex offenders look for opportunities and travel where they perceive the lowest risk. There have been a few successful convictions of child sex offenders in Cambodia and UK. But many offenders go scot-free. Successful convictions would send out a clear message to the offenders and could bring a stop to children being abused.
She stressed on the need for better collaboration and cooperation to link together and share information by creating a central hub for information, protocols and contracts in tourism destinations to combat the sexual exploitation of children. To have systems in place for rapid response and lastly to treat this as an organised international crime.
Aditi Chanchani, EQUATIONS spoke on the various code of conducts that exist for the Protection of Children in Tourism. She stressed the need for proper implementation of these codes both in letter and spirit at the state and national level.
Nishtha Desai, Children Rights in Goa voiced her concern regarding the difficulties of prosecution and the need for collaboration among NGOs, media, tourism industry and government. She stated that it was 25 years since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - an opportune time to take stock of the situation and collaborate to strengthen child protection mechanisms.
Fathima Balambid, Jan Ugahi shared her organsiation's work linked to Childline with their 1st priority being on any case of child abuse that they receive. Fr Savio Fernandes, Centre for Responsible Tourism spoke about the informal sector in tourism (Shack owners, Taxi Drivers and Owners and SMEs) and their role in the protection of children by campaigning for zero tolerance against child abuse. Suzana de Souza, Childline remarked that even though cases are booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, which makes sexual offences as non-bailable offences, bail is still granted to such offenders.
The Indian Government has the responsibility to scrutinise visa applications it receives and the power to deny entry a known child sex offender to travel to India - which rarely happens. On the occasion on World Prevention of Child Abuse Day (19 November) there is a need to take decisive action to stop the abuse of children.
Nishtha Desai & Ashiosh Nagvenkar