Friday, May 25, 2012


Pedophile Tourism Grows in Africa

A little-reported phenomenon is spreading in holiday resort areas of the developing countries, largely unreported by international or local press, and which goes under the benign name of “child sex tourism” (CST). This euphemistic term for a different brand of pedophilia has moved its focus, in the eastern hemisphere, from the tsunami-prone areas of Sri Lanka and points east to the coast of Kenya and Africa.
Pedophiles seek out and travel to those places where they are sure of finding children and young people ready for sexual relationships. Many “child sex tourists” –men and women- are “situational abusers” at home, but they also seek out children as partners with a trip to a foreign country. There they are known by no-one, will never meet the partner again, and the victims are easy prey, with little notion of their rights. Pedophile tourism is fueled by poverty, the Internet, ease of travel and weak law enforcement.
The laws of most developing countries in Africa are unprepared for this. Gambia has recently set up a hotline to inform on cases of sex tourism, and Senegal has a special anti-CST unit within the police force in two of its popular tourist destinations. But in Kenya’s present constitution, which goes back to 1963 independence, prostitution is not illegal even if living on the earnings of prostitution is termed a “misdemeanor.”
Kenya, the economic giant of the region, has an “open-door” economic policy aimed at attracting as much foreign investment as possible, and tourism is a major foreign exchange earner. Mass tourism has benefited the economy in the past forty years, almost without a break, and now many charter airlines operate direct flights from Europe to Mombasa international airport.
Mombasa is no longer a sleepy town on the Indian Ocean. With about one million inhabitants, it is a major port on the east African coastline, serving landlocked Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, eastern Congo and southern Sudan; cruise liners dock there for some days to allow tourists travel to the game parks and enjoy the beaches; and it is a strategic military base. It is also a drugs trafficking point, has long-standing connections with the Gulf and the Red Sea, and is fast becoming an economic hub in its own right. Its cosmopolitan make-up, international standards and welcoming, friendly people complete its tourist appeal.
Add to this explosive cocktail the fact that the City Council issues cards to barmaids to work in lodging-houses which are effectively brothels, establishments owned by influential people, who are deemed “above the law;” and that the media and the government have neglected to bring the issue to light, and, lo and behold, a perfect setting for pedophile tourism.
Cross the main highways leading north or south of Mombasa and a different world reveals itself. On the beach side are the hotels, casinos and luxury villas, the smart supermarkets, and tourist attractions such as crocodile villages and snake parks. On the other side is Africa: Africa with its grinding poverty, fight for survival, its squatters and the hard-earned money from working on sisal and sugar plantations.
Few tourists cross the highway, except to travel in air-conditioned comfort to a game park; others may just cross to make a pedophile contact. Education in this region has only just started to catch up with the rest of the country because it is now heavily state-subsidized; parents didn’t have the money before. Some children still find it easier to escape from the inland villages, however, to look for a living in Mombasa or Malindi. African girls and women are seen as easily “available” and submissive, and direly in need of money. They see, perhaps, prospects of a better life somewhere in Europe so “mzungu” (White person) contact is “useful.” Young men from poor or broken homes, with little or no education, except for an adequate smattering of English, German and Italian are “available” and charming.
Local culture heavily frowns on such behavior, but local people are also very tolerant and hospitable, and their good-nature is taken advantage of. And pedophile tourism is a money-earner, so the authorities pretend it doesn’t exist or seem to.
It is a thriving industry still in parts of South Asia, as well as Central America and those parts of Africa where tourists venture. It is also an international disgrace. The media, in particular, are hypocritical about it. A pastor or priest who abuses children is called a pedophile, molester, defiler or pervert; it makes front-page news and the media is after his blood until his church apologizes. A Briton, German or Italian is said to be “on a spree” or having a bit of “legitimate fun,” is called a sex “tourist.” He’s not reported; no need to apologize either for a life ruined.

Cutting Edge Africa Correspondent Martyn Drakard writes from Kenya and Uganda.

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