60,000 children in S-E Asian sex trade
Law enforcers hesitate to swoop in
to the rescue because the child may be a family's sole source of income. -myp
Fri, Mar 20, 2009
DENPASAR, BALI - IN A frightening statistic that is still creeping upwards, over 60,000 children in South-east Asia are being exploited in the multi-million-dollar world of sexual businesses and sex tourism, a seminar was told on Wednesday.
Startlingly, law enforcers at times hesitate to swoop in to the rescue because the child may be a family's sole source of income.
"The number falling victim to sexual abuse is increasing," said Mr Frans van Dijk, regional director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a Dutch aid body focused on children. The countries most affected are Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
At the South-east Asia Conference on Child Sex Tourism here, Mr van Dijk urged governments to take the issue more seriously.
The situation was especially bad in Asia because some Asian men believed that having sex with children increased longevity, he said.
The core problem, he added, was poverty and lack of education.
An Indonesian speaker, Mr Irwanto - the president of the National Coalition for the Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation - noted that officers were sometimes hesitant to make arrests because it would mean the loss of a family's basic income.
He said children were being groomed for prostitution with financial incentives such as payment of school fees.
Children in areas prone to natural disasters, like earthquakes, floods and cyclones, were particularly at risk, especially orphans or those who had lost a parent.
"Children in disaster-affected areas like Aceh are a particular concern because they are very vulnerable to this form of grooming," he said.
The Asian tsunami of 2004 killed around 170,000 people in Aceh.
Mr Marco Scarpati, president oF the Italian chapter of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, said the rapid growth of technology, especially the Internet, played a major role in exacerbating the phenomenon of child-sex tourism.
- THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE