South Africa has about 40000 child prostitutes and thousands more of its 18million children are at “critical risk” from sexual tourism predators

South Africa has about 40000 child prostitutes and thousands more of its 18million children are at "critical risk" from sexual tourism predatorsThe report ‘Don’t Look Away – be aware and report the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism’ reveals the dangers domestic and foreign tourists pose to South Africa’s children. It says “as tourism continues to grow, risks to children deepen”.

The intention of the report, according to researcher Joan van Niekerk, is to improve the protection of vulnerable children in developing countries from sexual exploitation by tourists. The report highlights some of the reported incidents, including:

  • A German priest, 50, was arrested last year for allegedly indecently assaulting four boys aged nine and 10 at a German-language youth camp in Johannesburg in 2008. The matter is pending in court. The man faces extradition.
  • A US Peace Corps volunteer, 33, was arrested in 2011 for allegedly enticing four girls into illicit sexual acts. He was sentenced to 180 months in prison plus 10 years’ supervised release.
  • A UK priest, 52, was arrested in 2006 for allegedly sexually abusing three children. Pornographic material was found at his flat. The man pleaded not guilty and was released on R1000 bail.
  • A German businessman, 64, was arrested in 2005 for allegedly sexually abusing eight girls under 16 for over two years. He fled to Namibia where he was arrested.
  • A Swiss tourist, 46, was arrested in 2005. The self-confessed paedophile was caught sodomising a 14-year-old Alexandra boy in a Sandton hotel. Pornographic material was seized. He was released on R10000 bail.

The report was produced by international organisation, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children and was commissioned by the EU. It is being released in Germany today.

The report, however, states that though the “true magnitude” of child sex tourism is unknown because of its clandestine nature, all types of commercial sexual exploitation of children exist in South Africa.

It shows that, with 11million children living in households with an income of below R570 a month, and with about 4million orphans, millions of children are vulnerable to the South African tourism industry’s “dark side”. Over 20million domestic and foreign tourists travel through and to South Africa annually, contributing R67-billion to the economy.

Van Niekerk labelled the report a “sanitised and tame” version of the real dangers facing local children, saying that the European donor organisations that commissioned the researchers feared upsetting the government with their findings.

“Lots of important details were left out. It’s tame compared to what research found.

“As long as critical details are left out, the extent of the dangers children face remains hidden [and] important recommendations to improve child protection cannot be implemented.”

Medical Research Council data revealed that most of the rapists’ victims were aged between 15 and 19.

The report cited Salvation Army data, which showed Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Limpopo as the recruitment areas for traffickers.

Increasing numbers of children are smuggled into South Africa from neighbouring countries and from India, China and Taiwan, with Nigerians, eastern Europeans and Chinese driving child trafficking and prostitution rings.

“Of concern is the involvement of truck drivers … [they are] the link in trafficking chains.” Social development department spokesman Lumka Oliphant said: “We have programmes on identification, assessment and referral of children at risk to, or victims of, sex tourism.”

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Edition 50March 2014

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