Centre’s code push to wipe off child sex tourism stain

Deeply disturbed and concerned with the widely growing perception that India is emerging as a prime sex tourism destination, the Centre has taken the first big step towards checking an anomaly by putting together a code of conduct for the tourism industry.
03 February 2010

What has made the government and the tourism industry sit up and take note of a trend in which foreign tourists visit tourism hubs like Goa, Kerala as well as pilgrimage-rich states like Tamil Nadu and Orissa to seek more than the sun and the culture.
The code of conduct is a virtual admission by the government that the problem exists. The code of conduct, which is likely to become effective on March 8 – observed as International Women’s Day – after approval from Tourism Minister Kumari Selja, has come following several recent exposes involving foreigners indulging in child sex, paedophilia and pornography.
The code of conduct for service providers in the tourism sector for “Safe and Honorable Tourism” has been finalised after consulting all stakeholders, including state governments.
“It had become an urgent necessity to come up with such a code as India has been identified as a source, transit and destination point in the international circuit, and a large number of children are also trafficked within the country,” the sources stressed.
Tourism Ministry sources said the government decided to act following warnings from experts that the menace had assumed dangerous proportions not just in tourist havens but also in pligrimage centres in Tamil Nadu and Orissa.
Humane view
The government is also taking a humane view and would not want condemning impoverished children to the explotation of sex tourism. “The code aims to protect children and women, culture, values and the coutnry’s heritage to ensure long-term sustainable and responsible tourism in India,” the sources said.
Among the organisations involved in evolving the code are PATA India, Save the Children India, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Equitable Tourism Option (EQUATIONS), NEST India Foundation and the National Commission for Women was also consulted in this regard.
”Under the code, hotels will have to report any suspicious behaviour by any staff or customer to the local police. If any material pertaining to child pornography is found on the computer of any employee or customer, it will also have to be reported to the local police,” the sources said.
Tour operators will have to train personnel to be alert against any possibility of sexual exploitation of children.
“Airlines operating within and to India will have to commit themselves to pursue, with every possible means, public awareness about the issue through in-flight magazines, ticket jackets, internet links, and videos on long-haul flights,” the sources said.
The code will be applicable to all directors, employees, suppliers, contractors and patrons of hotels, airlines, tour operators and institutions connected with the industry.  It will require hotels to even prevent guests from visiting child pornography sites using the Internet, and seeking to contact children for sexual purposes via chat rooms or discussion groups.
The code has been necessitated, the sources said, in the light of growth in high-spending foreign tourists and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)’s projection that India will be among the nations having the fastest-growing tourism industry over the next 10-15 years.
The government move follows the 2008 World Congress against the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents held in Rio, Brazil, in which countries were asked to draft special laws to prevent children from being used in the tourism industry.