Sunday, August 22, 2010

First New Zealand arrest for child sex tourism

In New Zealand the subject of 'child sex tourism' is swept so far under the carpet to the point that we have almost convinced ourselves it doesn't even exist. But, now that this issue has been exposed on our own back doorstep we are forced to confront the harrowing possibility that it is not an isolated case.

A 46 year old man was arrested in Auckland today facing charges relating to a child sex tourism operation. The arrest is the result of an eight month investigation into the man's activities co-ordinated by the Police Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ) unit, a specialist team set up in 2009 as part of a global task force focused on online child sexual exploitation. The man, who has interim name suppression, appeared in the Manakau district court today charged with organising and promoting child sex tours to South East Asia, and dealing in children for sexual exploitation - the first charges of this kind in New Zealand.

Child sex tourism is part of a multi-billion dollar global sex tourism industry and victimizes approximately 2 million children worldwide (over twice the child population of New Zealand). It involves 'tourists' who travel from their own country to another to engage in commercial sex acts with children. The crime is commonly fueled by weak law enforcement, corruption, the Internet, ease of travel, and poverty. Prospective holidays makers target CST (Child Sex Tourism) 'hotspots' such as Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil, Mexico and Kenya, where the exploitation of children is made easy by turbulent politics, unstable economies and high illiteracy / unemployment rates. Children are often lured away from broken homes by 'recruiters' who promise them jobs in a city and are then forced into prostitution. Sometimes, in sheer desperation for money, families will prostitute or even sell their own children into the sex trade.

Note: This video contains disturbing themes and content.

Commercially facilitated child abuse is a global tragedy. However, if there wasn't a global demand for organised pedophilia the problem wouldn't exist.

Given the choice, it is fair to assume most children would not sell their bodies, their innocence and their livelihood for the sexual gratification of a stranger (Of course there are exceptions when children volunteer themselves as a last resort source of income). But, the child sex 'tourists' actively pursue opportunities to engage in the sexual abuse of children. They choose to participate. It is highly illegal, strictly policed and severely punished in most of the developed world where a majority of these 'tourists' come from. But, somehow they think it's acceptable, a part of culture; but most importantly, they think they can get away with it in other countries - and they are.

The 46 year old Auckland motel manager arrested for his involvement in this industry is only the first to be uncovered in New Zealand. He was arrested only shortly before he was due to leave the country for Thailand - the #1 international hotspot for child sex tourism - where he would have likely participated in or helped facilitate the sexual exploitation of children even further. To the credit of New Zealand law enforcement, they implemented a thorough eight month investigation to gather sufficient evidence on this man, which shows they are taking this issue seriously. However, it is unlikely this is an isolated incident.

Awareness is the most effective tool we have in the prevention of this criminal activity and I feel as though the New Zealand media have failed to capitalise on the opportunity. With summer approaching travel plans are set in motion so now is the best time to give this issue attention. Child Sex Tourism is a growing industry because holiday makers think they can get away with it, they think it's underground and out of sight from the rest of society. However, if the media step up and shed some light on this stigmatised issue it just might, at the very least, lead one potential 'tourist' to question their actions. Even if that's all increased awareness ever achieves - one less 'tourist' equals at least one less case of child sex abuse. It's a vast improvement on doing nothing.

Credit to & for this story.

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