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News Article

India a haven for sex tourism, says report

Report on sex trafficking says India a centre for sex tourists

A study on human trafficking says India is fast becoming a hotspot for child-sex tourism. The 748-page study called "Trafficking in Women and Children in India," sponsored by the National Human Rights Commission, said, "In India, the abuse of both male and female children by tourists has acquired serious dimensions."

The study also said "unlike Sri Lanka and Thailand, this problem has not been seriously tackled or discussed openly in India and has remained more or less shrouded in secrecy, making the likelihood of child abusers being caught and punished very low."

"The silence of the community and its unwillingness to speak out and openly discuss the issue has further compounded the problem."

According to the study, Goa and Kerala were the places often visited by tourists in search of child sex and beach boys, shack owners and former victims of pedophiles were facilitating the procurement of boys and girls for sex.

The study looked at human trafficking, sex tourism, and ways of cracking down on sexual exploitation. It says that women are sourced from within India and from Nepal and Bangladesh, and that even minor girls are being trafficked, to places as far as the Middle East and the Philippines for prostitution as well as pornography, with the Indian law enforcing agencies looking the other way.

The study quoted investigators as saying that many children mentioned that they had sex with a varied range of tourists for Rs.50 to Rs.200.

"It is hard to measure the incidence of child sex tourism as it is difficult to conduct quantitative research on such a clandestine and illegal industry," the study said. "Qualitative research and anecdotal evidence suggests that child sex tourism is growing and spreading into different regions of the world."

"There are fewer laws against child abuse in India and the beaches of Goa and Kovalam in Kerala are increasingly becoming the main destinations for those seeking child prostitutes."

The study, which was researched by the New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences, calls for greater international battle against child sex tourism.

"There is a need for global cooperation to fight the menace of child sex tourism. This is an internationally organised crime and a global perspective and coordinated plan of action are necessary to deal with it,

"The destination countries need to enact and enforce stringent laws and punish the exploiters and their collaborators.

"Child pornography, which is closely associated with child sex tourism, is a technically advanced crime. It is necessary to set up trained and equipped police units to combat Internet based child pornography."

Not everyone in India welcomes the report. One of the areas singled out as experiencing increased sex tourism is Kerala, where the report says: "In places like Alleppy, foreign tourists stay in houseboats, making houseboat sex tourism a new and thriving concept. This is a safe method, as there are hardly raids on houseboats."

But Kerala's tourism ministry says that the report lacks credibility and is aimed at finishing the flourishing houseboat industry, especially in Alappuzha and Cochin.

Repudiating the study, state Tourism Minister K.C. Venugopal said: "Everyone knows that Kerala is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in South Asia with houseboats as its major selling point. A report like this could blemish the state's chances to grow as a tourist spot. So far we have not received any complaints from any quarters. And do you think such a thing can happen in literate Kerala where moral policing is very high?

"There is something fishy about the report. May be they have other interests."

Rao (1997) addressed issues on women and tourism in Kerala, including consideration of tourism as a part of modern consumerism and the sex industry. Rao has also published (2003) on the trafficking of Nepali girls for Indian brothels, and reports on the link between poverty and the ease with which people traffickers can lure their victims. Sex tourism is linked to poverty and disparities in wealth and power between rich and poor countries, between men and women and between adults and children (O'Connell Davidson, 2000).

As Leung (2003) argues, child prostitution is linked to causes such as poverty, marginalization, underdevelopment and the emerging trend of tourism, and any rectification has to take a holistic view. There also has to be a switch from authorities prosecuting prostitutes, who are often victims of trafficking, to targeting the clients and traffickers. The prosecution of paedophile sex tourists in their own countries is starting to play a role in this, but the Indian report says that the people traffickers often have links with police officials, and have little to fear from law enforcement agencies.

"Unless there is a paradigm shift - whereby the traffickers are brought to book, made to compensate for the damage and harm done to the victims, and their illegal assets are confiscated - there can be no justice for the victims and no real solution to the problem of trafficking" says the report.

A number of articles on the sex tourism problem, and steps taken internationally to deal with it, can be found by using the term "sex tourism" in the Site Search facility on


National Human Rights Commission

Institute of Social Sciences

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 20 January 2006
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism