Seminar urges tough laws on child sex
Church, state officials want severe consequences for offenders
Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman has urged the government to enact legislation targeting the increasing sexual exploitation of children in the state. The prelate said a crackdown on Thailand’s flourishing child-sex trade has driven those who traffick in children to look for new locations in Asia. India, which has the largest number of sexually abused children in the world, should guard against the “onslaught of child-sex tourism,” the archbishop said at a seminar titled Protecting Children in Tourism: Role of the Goa Children’s Act 2003 that ended last week. The number of child prostitutes in the country could be as high as 1.5 million, Archbishop Ferrao said, adding that revisions of the Goa Children’s Act were needed to combat new threats. “The need of the hour is to press on for a legislation that will forcefully declare zero-tolerance for child sexual abuse, particularly for tourism-related crimes against children in India.” He further stressed the need to create conditions that would prevent children from becoming involved in the sex industry. D. C. Sahoo, secretary of tourism, said his department would install billboards and hoardings in various parts of Goa stating the government’s commitment to protecting children. “Licenses would be granted or renewed to tourism establishments on condition that they agree to abide by the Goa Children’s Act and other laws,” he said. The seminar also addressed the need for victims’ assistance units, in addition to a witness protection program. Delegates at the seminar also highlighted the need for effective district inspection teams to monitor children’s homes and a time-bound settlement of legal cases in children’s court. The seminar also sought the government’s adoption of a child-friendly tourism code that would be binding and carry severe consequences for violators.