By Rohey Jadama
The Child Protection Alliance (CPA) with support from ECPAT Netherlands organised a forum on the prevention of Child sex tourism on 22nd of January, 2015 at the Senegambia Beach Hotel.
The main objectives of the forum are to identify strategies to effectively protect children from abuse and exploitation in tourism as well as to share the main findings and recommendations of a research on child sex tourism in the Gambia which was undertaken in 2014.
Child sex tourism is the act of travelling from one’s home or country in order to have sexual contact with children.
Delivering the keynote statement the Minister of Tourism and Culture Mr. Benjamin A. Roberts, said, “Whilst we recognize the challenges inherent in this social vice and which is very related to tourism, I would equally urge that we pursue our overriding objective of containing this challenge in a manner that is seen to be responsible.
“It is not easy because it calls for commitment, sincerity, resources, political will, social policing, awareness, and collective responsibility. These ideals must obtain if we are to succeed in preventing child sex tourism”, said the Tourism and Culture Minister.
He noted that they as a government realise and appreciate the support and commitment over the years of the Child Protection Alliance, UNICEF, and ECPAT in their endeavour to curb this vice of tourism.
“The position of Government is crystal clear in terms of our intolerance to such vices and may I add that of the practices of homosexuality, which is in contradiction to our religious and cultural practices”, remarked Mr. Roberts.
The tourism and Culture Minister added, that some of the recent achievements of Government in working towards mitigating the vices of child sex tourism include.
1) The review and enactment of the Tourism Offenses Act (2011)
2) The institutionalization of a Tourism Security Unit for policing purposes
3) The passage of the Law to institute a 24-Hour Court Tribunal for adjudication of offence cases in Child Sex Tourism and other tourism related offences
4) The pending review of the Gambia Tourism Board Act and Regulations to address surfacing challenges of which Child Sex Tourism and Prostitution are a part of
5) The initiative of the First Lady, Her Excellency Madam Zainab Jammeh, in creating an Endowment Fund for the welfare of Children, especially those dumped by their mothers at birth.
He asserted that to address the challenges of Sex Tourism, the strategic action points feature prominently in the Tourism & Culture Industry strategic plan currently being developed by the Ministry of Tourism & Culture in consultation with the Tourism Stakeholders:
(i) Institutionalization of a 24-hour Tribunal Court for adjudication of cases relating to tourism
(ii) Outright control on Prostitution.
(iii) Review of the GTBoard Regulations to address regulation gaps
(iv) Engagement with the Tourism Select Committee of the National Assembly
(v) Engagement with security outfits to support the Tourism Security Unit with intelligence as its regulations are earmarked for prevention and minimization of Child Sex Tourism and Sex Tourism Offense engagement with the electorate on challenges of this social vice relates to expunging the networks engaged in the propagation of Sex Tourism and Child Sex Abuse.
(vi) Close down brothels and accommodation outfits where such vices happen.
(vii) Institute an awareness programme on the practices of prostitution, child sex tourism, paedophilia and its negative impact on Tourism, our culture, and the ultimate undermining of our moral fabric through radio and TV programmes and engagement with schools targeting primary and secondary school children with the support of the Ministry of Basic & Secondary Education.
He said his Ministry would at the right time engage with CPA, UNICEF, and ECPAT to solicit their support in the implementation of the Strategy currently being developed for the Tourism Industry.
For his part, the Child protection specialist of the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Mr. Salifu Jarsey, revealed that they started to be involved in Child sex tourism way back in 2003. He said they have conducted a series of sensitisation with CPA.
He urged the various institutions to come together to implement a holistic programme that are highlighted in the report.
Speaking earlier, the Director of Child Protection Alliance, Mr. Njundu Drammeh said this programme is important because the forum is meant to discuss issues affecting children. He thanked GTBoard, Gambia Hotel Association and ECPAT for the support rendered to his institution.
Other speakers also included the Acting director general of GTBoard and the Chairperson of the Gambia Hotel Association.