When it comes to child sex, racism and “flag-wrapped” nationalism, kiwis, Aussies and a few others become indistinguishable. For a backgrounder see Comment
Child sex tourism study ‘blames Aussies’
September 13, 2009
With a middle-class background and an internet connection, the Australian man is keen to explore travel deals advertised across the web.
He is the co-worker, relative and mate who awaits cheap flights to Southeast Asia that the economic downturn has made all the more plentiful.
But he is drawn to such tropical places not for the beaches, cheap drinks and a brief escape from the rat race.
He is the customer in a growing global issue that sees over 1.8 million children as young as eight years old being sold for sex – sometimes up to ten times a day – until they’re considered “worthless” before they reach their 30th birthday.
And new studies reveal this man has more mates than ever who think and act just like him.
Australians make up the largest portion of foreign sex offenders against children in Thailand, according to research at John Hopkins University in Baltimore that studied patterns of arrests and prosecutions between 1995 and 2006.
His money is fuelling a $US31.6 billion ($A36.5 billion) industry in trafficking in what a recent report by a global network of groups against child sex slavery concludes is a “massive human rights violation that is currently going largely unnoticed around the world”.
Bernadette McMenamin, CEO of Child Wise Australia, says child sex trafficking remains a hidden problem that most Australians have become complacent about – even though a main root of the global crime is the Australian offender.
“People tell us, ‘It happens overseas. Isn’t that an issue we talked about years ago?’ But what we’ve found is that … the supply and demand factors fuelling child sex slavery have actually grown,” she told AAP.
“The number of children entering the trade has grown. Efforts to combat this problem have not succeeded despite pouring money into overseas governments.”
A new global campaign called “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People,” will be launched on Monday to help reverse the trend and bring the issue back into the homes of the average Australian.
Being run across 45 countries, the campaign aims to raise awareness, conduct a survey on people’s attitudes and lobby national governments.
In February, Child Wise will step up the campaign by backing stalled amendments to child sex tourism laws in the federal parliament.
Rather than seeing authorities wait for child sex to occur before acting, the amendments seek out preparatory offences: stopping sex offenders from travelling overseas, buying flights and possessing child pornography.
“We’ve waited long enough,” Ms McMenamin says of the proposed changes. “We’re simply not keeping up with travelling sex offenders.”
Only small changes are required to save Asian girls from being sold into a life of slavery, she says.
The Body Shop has already joined the Child Wise campaign by selling a hand cream that directs profits to Cambodian outreach programs.
Such programs can provide support for girls and keep them in school with books, pens and bicycles.
It may not seem like a lot but the average child sex slave is sold for only a few hundred dollars by a family or boyfriend in poverty desperate for cash, she says.
In Cambodia children are brought in from Vietnam or taken from village to village, then off to Thailand.
All these victims suffer lifelong mental and physical damage. Some contract HIV/AIDS while most find it hard to reintegrate into society after a decade of such slavery.
Ms McMenamin says most Australians view the price of petrol as a greater concern than the welfare of foreign children.
“We have increased awareness and there have been some arrests but overall we’re not putting a dent in the problem,” she says.
“We need people to try and think beyond what’s going on in their lives.” © 2010 AAP