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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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SEX TOURISM - Sankar Sen


During last few years India is witnessing a tourist boom. A study conducted by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) shows that the number of tourists visiting India is steadily growing up. Foreign exchange earnings from inbound tourists has gone up from $ 2443 million (1999-2000) to 2717 million (2000-2001). According to one estimate, by 2020, 40 million tourists are expected to visit India constituting 4% of world’s tourism traffic.
Tourism has both positive as well as negative impacts on Indian society. Tourism helps development, brings foreign exchange and facilitates cultural exchange and integration. At the same time tourism provides anonymity and opportunity for various illegal acts. When the tourist is in a foreign land, the anonymity obtained relieves him from any social and legal constraints that he faces in his own country. A Japanese proverb quotes “a traveller knows no shame, away from home he become less moral”. Anonymity enjoyed by the tourists coupled with the desire for leisure and fun, and the poverty and unemployment of the local people have contributed to the growth of what has come to be called sex tourism. Not all tourists are sex tourists but some of them definitely are. There is growing evidence that over the last few years increasing numbers of sex offenders go to less developed countries as a result of increase in vigilance and action in their own countries.

Many of the sex tourists in India are paedophiles who seek out children to satisfy their sexual urges. They can be of any nationality and come from different professional backgrounds. Though some of them are loners, paedophiles are usually members of highly organised networks. Paedophiles adopt various stratagems to fulfill their designs. Running of an orphanage is one of the typical modus operandi of the paedophiles. In a well-known and well-publicized case in Tamil Nadu Swami of a religious sect running an orphanage in a sprawling campus was found to be exploiter of children. A large number of children residing in the orphanage were sexually exploited by the accused over a long period of time. The sordid happenings in the orphanage came to light when the police raided the place at the complaint of a child who escaped and arrested the Swami.

In another well-known case Will Heum, a Dutch national posing as a good samaritan, set up an orphanage near Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. Heum who used to run the orphanage with the help of his wife entertained a large number of foreigners in his place and allowed them to exploit sexually the children. Besides running orphanages, another modus operandi of the paedophiles is to declare themselves as producers of films and documentaries. By this stratagem a Swiss couple used to pick up girls from the streets of Mumbai by showing temptation of toys, food and chocolates. Tipped of by an NGO group in Mumbai, the police raided the hotel room where the couple was staying and found that the male accused was lying nude among minor girl children, and the second accused, his wife, was taking photographs. The Police seized the laptop, which had recorded and stored all pornographic details. The police also found that the accused couple was involved in the circulation of pornography. The court convicted the accused persons and ordered payment of compensation to the victimized children. The court also appreciated the work done by the dedicated team of police officers.

There is a close linkage between child pornography and sex tourism. Indeed they are mutually reinforcing crimes. Hardened child sexual exploiters are often found to be producing, collecting and circulating child pornography. They are also involved in trafficking pornographic materials and this work has become easier with the advent of internet technology. In a raid in Stockholm, Sweden, the Swedish police discovered blue films made on the ‘beach boys’ of Sri lanka and the footage ran for over 300 hours. Experienced offenders are adepts in identifying vulnerable children from broken or disputed home background.

A study done by International Voluntary Agency Child Prostitution in India (ICPAT) shows that Goa in India has become a sex destination for many tourists. Hardened sex tourists have identified as Goa as a site in which they can accommodate cheaply their sexual interests. Sex tourism in Goa hogged the headlines after the infamous case of Freddy Peats. Peats has been operating in Goa since 1980 without arousing suspicion of anybody. He was considered to be a respectable man, a good samaritan, who provided shelter to young homeless boys and girls, but actually he was involved in luring children to sexual exploitation. Discovery of nearly 2300 photographs of nude children, some of them engaged in sex with Peats showed the depths of his depravity. Police investigation revealed that a number of foreigners who used to visit the orphanage of Peats and take boys out to have sex with them. Peats was convicted and sentenced to long-term imprisonment.

Sex tourism has also come to notice in a big way in Kerala, which now draws a large number of tourists from all over the world. Hoteliers in places like Quillon, Alleppy, Ernakulam, Kovalam, reportedly promote sex tourism because such services bring extra income to them. Victims are often projected by agents as college girls in search of fun and excitement with intention to earn an extra buck. In places like Alleppy foreign tourists come and stay in house boats. Houseboat sex tourism is a new concept and is thriving as there are no raids on the house-boats.

There has also been sprouting of bars and pubs in different tourist destinations. A study of the bar girls around Mumbai done by two NGO groups viz. Save Our Sisters (SOS) and VEDH reveals that there are about one lakh bar girls in Greater Mumbai alone. Most of the girls come from Bangladesh, Nepal as well as different cities of India. The girls face physical, social as well as sexual exploitation. If the girls are virgins, within a few weeks of joining the bar, they are introduced to the special clients that include VIPs, the local politicians, government officials. The special clients prefer virgins because of the fear of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Though many of the girls initially joined the bar for dancing or working as waiters, a good many of them become victims of sexual exploitation - a fallout of globalization and tourism promotion.

A study on “Tourism Related Commercial Sexually Exploitation of Children in the Eastern Coast of India” done by a Bangalore based NGO group revealed that most of the children victimized by the tourists belong to either broken families or families affected by debt bondage and living in penury. Both in Puri (Orissa) and Digha (West Bengal), it has been found that may victimised children hail from families engage in fishing. With the decline of family income as fishing is no longer a viable occupation due to the operation of trawlers, many of the children are sent to the tourists visiting the places for financial benefits. Children who are victims of paedophilia have ambivalent feelings towards the offenders. Paedophiles shower attention on the children in the forms of gifts and most of the victimised children who come from an environment of emotional and material deprivation are unwilling to make statements incriminating the paedophiles. India today is fast replacing countries in South-East Asia as the destination for the sex tourists and particularly paedophiles. The abuse of children both male and female by the tourists has assumed serious dimensions. Unlike Sri Lanka and Thailand the problem has not been seriously looked and openly discussed. The likelihood of abusers being caught and punished is also low and the silence of the community and its unwillingness to talk and openly discuss the issue has further compounded the problem.

There is utmost need for global cooperation to fight the menace of sex tourism. It is an internationally organised crime and an international perspective and a coordinated plan of action is necessary to deal with this. The tourist sending countries must pass extra-territorial legislation to prosecute their nationals who go to other countries and engage themselves in sex with children and women. The destination countries must also work out and enforce strictly laws, which punish the exploiters and their collaborators in the commission of the crime. Strong messages against sex tourism must be displayed at strategic places mentioning the legal and penal provisions and warning the potential sex tourists. Central and State governments should have a monitoring mechanism with the cooperation of other stake-holders such as hoteliers, local authorities, and tour operators to curb sex tourism. A comprehensive policy for dealing with the problem has to be worked out with provision for rehabilitation packages for the victims.

(Shri Sankar Sen, Ex-Director General of National Human Rights Commission and Ex-Director of National Police Academy, Hydrabad)

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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