With advances in mass communication, transportation and other infrastructure around the world, the ability of tourists to access even remote destinations have significantly increased. Thereby, tourism and travel have promoted a cultural shift in understanding and tolerance. Furthermore, tourism has been able to generate a profound contribution to the worldwide Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, it can be stated that despite the economic growth a country may enjoy, the social and cultural effects of tourism have a significant impact on individual lives, especially popular destination venues. A dire consequence of tourism is the rise of Child Sex Tourism (CST).
CST is commonly defined as the “sexual exploitation of children by a person or persons who travel from their home district, home geographical region, or home country in order to have sexual contact with children”. Many cases have indicated that children are not exploited by just tourists, but also by domestic travellers. The perpetrators could be from across the Indian Ocean or from our own backyard
The full extent of CST and exploitation in Sri Lanka have been difficult to document given the covert nature in which it operates on the fringes of society.
The commercial sexual exploitation of children is possible, given the vast economic disparities prevalent in the island. This situation is further perpetuated in the presence of weak laws and corrupt law enforcement officials, who benefit from allowing the trade to flourish. Factors such as globalisation and new communications technology promote an unregulated industry and enable predators to seek children without fear of laws and regulations. The development of the tourism industry is another reason for rapid growth in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Yet, the tourism industry itself is not the main cause of child exploitation, but its nature provides all the necessary factors, such as the erosion of traditional values and socio-cultural norms, opportunities to earn a quick “buck,” exposure to nudity, relationships between adults and children/men and women and increased demand for sex services from domestic and foreign tourists.
Child sex tourism is also linked to the prostitution, trafficking and the production of child pornography.
There has been a rise in the number of tourists in Sri Lanka following the end of the civil war in 2009. Despite the potential, increased tourism has on the nation’s economic growth, the increase in child trafficking and prostitution must be taken into account.
PEaCE initiated the arrest of a German suspect in the year 1994 and brought the issue of child sex in travel and tourism to the limelight in Sri Lanka.