‘Protect children from exploitation’
ALL citizens have been encouraged to become activists and advocates in the prevention of child exploitation.
Stakeholders yesterday said the number of children being exploited in the travel and tourism industry had expanded across the globe.
Travel and tourism numbers had increased and so had the number of vulnerable and therefore exploitable children, they said at a conference on the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, hosted by Child Welfare South Africa and Ecpat International.
The two-day event, held in Pretoria, began yesterday and has the participation of local and international experts, including representatives from the African Union Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
They agreed that children who became vulnerable were likely to be forced into prostitution at trade and tourism hubs.
Children were contacted and groomed by pimps and perpetrators in person or on the internet, and they could also be trafficked by family members.
Speakers said there were no signs of typical child sex offenders, and people from all walks of life could become offenders. They had the knack of making children so comfortable that they thought nothing could happen to them.
The conferenced heard that many children are afraid to speak out about the exploitation and abuse they were being subjected to once they had been sucked into exploitative sexual activities, and how victim exploitation caused lifelong stress and psychological problems.
“Everyone has a role to play to help prevent child exploitation,” a speaker from Child Welfare South Africa said.
Victor Tharage, directorgeneral of the Department of Tourism, said South Africa moved from crisis to crisis, and people had to ask themselves why they looked away when a child was being exploited.
“South Africans must make sure every child is empowered. It is shocking to find out that there are pupils who raped others,” Tharage said.
Her touched on the issue of unabridged birth certificates, which has the details of both parents and which is a requirement for travelling in and out of South Africa.
“It has helped with reducing the chances of children being trafficked,” Tharage pointed out.
He lauded the recent law passed allowing the prosecution of old sexual offences. “I’m congratulating the courts on passing the law of prosecuting sex offenders for the offences they committed, even when they are 100 years old,” he said.