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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Junction News Anniversary : Child Sex Tourism in Asia

 Originally posted on the 19th of July last this post deals with the worrying phenomenon of Child Sex Tourism in Asia.  Unfortunately, it remains a problem largely ignored by the West.

Today Mikhail Pletnev, a prominent and Grammy award winning Russian pianist took to the stand for a brief court appearance In Thailand charged with the rape of a 14 year old boy in Pattaya. The conditions of his bail require him to return to the court every 12 days but between these appearances he is free to travel as he wishes internationally. The maximum sentences for the proposed crime is 20 years. Pletnev has stated he is not guilty of the charge.

This allegation, raises again the issue of child sex tourism in Asia. Recent high profile cases of paedophilia in South East Asia have been the conviction of former pop start Gary Glitter and in Ireland only roughly a year ago a lauded Irish language poet was accused of similar offenses in the same region. Its clear that this is a growing and worrying problem.

In 2009 there were 2,888 people charged with child molestation in Thailand and the police are getting tougher on offenders. However. Thailand is a nation that has  no specific laws outlawing the ownership of child pornography and has been known for taking a lenient line on offenders in the past. Take for example the case of Swiss banker Cornel Wietlisbach, a man convicted of the abuse of young boys in Chiang Mai. He was originally facing 4 years in prison. This was halved because he co-operated with the police. In the end he was released on parole immediately and deported to Switzerland after paying the equivalent of a $125 fine.

But why do paedophiles travel to poorer Asian nations for sex? There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, in Thailand for example the prisons are severely over crowded and the criminal justice system is simply unable to cope. Also, the sheer poverty of the people in comparison to the Western tourists plays a huge role. Many defendants testimonies are severely altered or retracted after small bribes from the offender. This also helps to explain the incredibly high levels of child prostitution in these nations.

In Cambodia for example, the number of prosecutions has actually decreased in this area year on year while the number of victims has increased. The Government has failed to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of child trafficking. Child sex workers are often sold into the profession by naive or fully aware parents. They can be found up and down the country  in night clubs, massage parlours and karaoke bars. In many places the children are encouraged to drink extraordinary amounts of alcohol as clients are forced to pay for everything the child has drank.

Its clear that in the Indian sub continent and former French Polynesian nations child-sex trafficking has become an increasingly worrying epidemic. Its is sadly clear that paedophilia will as it always has remain a problem in human society but we have managed to control it to some degree in Western societies by  not only having laws written on paper but also enforcing these laws. It is this crucial difference that has evaded authorities across Asia. And until this happens millions of children will continue to be molested and abused daily in the worlds most populous continent.

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