The exhortation was made on Thursday during a one-day forum on research findings on child sex tourism by Child Protection Alliance in collaboration with the tourism ministry, Gambia Tourism Board and ECPAT Netherlands at the Senegambia Beach Hotel.
Minister of Tourism and Culture, Benjamin Roberts, while canvassing for support in checking child sex tourism in the country said government’s position is clear in terms of its intolerance to such vices.
“The position of government is crystal clear in terms of our intolerance to such vices and may I add that of the practices of homosexuality, which is in contradiction to our religious and cultural practices. You would all agree with me that prevention of the child sex tourism is not an easy goal to achieve. It is not easy because it calls for commitment, sincerity, resources, political will, social policing, awareness, and collective responsibility. These ideals must obtain if we are to succeed in preventing child sex tourism. As a government, we realise and appreciate the support and commitment over the years of the Child Protection Alliance, Unicef, and Ecpat in the endeavour to curb this vice of tourism. We equally are aware of the joint initiatives that have been undertaken by the Gambia Tourism Board and the Child Protection Alliance with support from Unicef to raise awareness on the stance of government against child sex tourism and paedophilia.”
Ealier, Njundu Drammeh, CPA national coordinator said the forum was meant for stakeholders to come together and discuss issues affecting the welfare of children. According to him:“This is a forum which will allow us to discuss on issues affecting children. I want to Ecpat Netherlands for sponsoring the programme and all those who took part in the assessment, as well as the GT Board and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for always being there for us.”
Mamodou Bah, acting director general of the Gambia Tourism Board commented: “We understand the population dimensions are changing and as they change, also the social challenges change in scope, diversity and scale. As a result, the social challenges will also increase. We understand that also that the children are the most vulnerable group in every aspect from family fabric to disease epidemic, crime, war, man-made and natural disasters. There is a universal need to protect children and we can do that through networks and partnerships. As the tourism industry is growing, in both magnitude and diversity, of course, we also expect the social challenges to be imminent. Among them would be sexual exploitation on both children and adults. There is a significant progress and effort to make sure that we come up with relevant and appropriate legal structures to enable an effective enforcement of the codes and ethics.”
For his part, Salifu Jarsey from Unicef said the welfare of children occupies a central position in the operations of his organisations. “Tourism has a lot of economic benefits in terms of employment both directly and indirectly. However, it also has some negative consequences whether environment, social or cultural. One of these is sexual abuse and exploitation. We need to recognise it and take action.”
Marc Van Maldegem, chairman of the Gambia Hotel Association said the association has been working very closely with Child Protection Alliance in the protection of children.“Our responsibility doesn’t just stop at the entrance of our hotels. We have a responsibility to make sure we end child sex tourism across the country.”]]>