As the people and authorities in Kerala enjoy a spurt in tourists arrival, there are many sections who are worried about the growing sex-trade in the State. It has been noticed that several young children are becoming the victims of many foreign tourists who visit Kerala for ‘sex tourism’.
According to a study titled “Trafficking in Women and Children in India”, conducted by the New Delhi-based Institute of Social sciences sponsored by National Human Rights Commission and funded by a UN agency, the sex tourism especially involving children, has become a problem in Kerala.
The study calls for an international battle against child-sex tourism. Along with the growth of tourism in Kerala, there was increasing victimization of children says the study.
In places like Alleppy, foreign tourists stay in houseboats, making houseboat sex tourism a new and thriving concept. These houseboats are considered relatively safer than other places as there are hardly any raids on houseboats.
“Mostly the tourists are top class executives who come here in search of houseboats and backwater tourism as they find the houseboats safe with no interference from outside and police and we fully approve the study conducted by National Human Rights commission and its finds that Kerala especially Allepey is becoming the hub of sex tourism,” says Saveen V.S., an Officer in Sexual Health Project, Alleppy.
Alleppy, popularly known as the Venice of the East, got its fame from its houseboats, which were earlier used as cargo boats popularly known as rice boats. Today it has more than 350 houseboats and they areon the rise.
The study further quoted that “many children mentioned that they had sex with a varied range of tourists for Rs.50 to Rs.200.”
There is also evidence that over the last few years, increasing numbers of sex offenders, particularly from Western countries, are shifting to less developed countries due to increasing vigilance and action against paedophilia in their own countries.
“Now-a-days tourists come here asking for young ones. There are number of agents working here who supply these girls and charge double the amount. They keep 50 per cent of the total amount as commission. The tourists prefer young girls believing that it is safe and there is no fear of sex-related diseases,” says a sex worker.
Meanwhile, the Government of Kerala refuse to buy these findings in the report. Kerala’s tourism minissays that the report that speaks of ‘thriving sex tourism’ in the State lacks credibility. It is aimed at attracting the flourishing houseboat industry, especially in Alappuzha and Kochi.
The Ministry, however, said that the government will take stern actions by conducting raids in the houseboats and other tourist destinations.
“I don’t think there is any such activity happening in Alleppey, but one thing is sure that the government is not going to support these illegal activities in the tourism sector and we will take stern action if any case is reported and necessary orders will be given to the police for raids,” said K.C. Venugopal, Minister for tourism, Kerala.
There are fewer laws against child abuse in India and the beaches of Goa and Kovalam in Kerala are increasingly becoming the main destination for individuals seeking child prostitutes.