‘Pro­tect chil­dren from ex­ploita­tion’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MATL­HATSI DIBAK­WANE

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.

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