Affordable airfares fuel increase in child abuse

  • 13/05/2016
Affordable airfares fuel increase in child abuse

The unprecedented boom in affordable airfares coupled with the growth in diverse types of tourism have inadvertently fuelled an upsurge in child sexual exploitation globally, with Southeast Asia's emerging economies particularly hard-hit, according to a new report launched by international non-profit ECPAT.

Unprecedented growth in the tourism industry over the past two decades has seen the numbers of international travellers billow to over 1.135 billion in 2014, and with Southeast Asia facing the fastest rate of tourism growth worldwide, the subregion is also being increasingly targeted by sex offenders.

"Orphanage tours, volunteerism and homestays all put sex offenders in greater proximity to children," said UNICEF's regional adviser for child protection Stephen Blight, at a press conference held in Bangkok to launch the 2016 Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism on Thursday night.

In Myanmar, the significant rise in international arrivals following the shift towards semi-civilian rule in 2011 prompted a tourism boom of over three million arrivals in 2015, according to the government's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

"Some hotel owners in Myanmar are willingly connecting tourists with sex workers when asked," reports the NGO End Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).

A separate survey by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in three cities found that 12 percent of sex workers serving tourists were between 10 and 14 years old.

In Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, which have been key destination hubs for paedophiles for decades, cooperation between national law enforcement agencies has culminated in a number of arrests.

For example a tip-off from Norwegian police to the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation weeks ago led to a crackdown on a child pornography ring in Cavite City.

Cambodia has also convicted some 256 offenders since 2003 with the help of US Homeland Security, which alerts authorities to the arrival of known sex offenders, according to Seila Seamleang, the director for child protection NGO Aple.

But growing internet expansion and mobile phone technology continue to challenge efforts to protect children, with paedophiles increasingly able to 'hide' their crimes and find opportunities online.