Special Envoy Lobbying for Harsher Laws on Sex Crimes against Children Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 06 October 2011 00:00

Sexual Exploitation WorkshopOn Wednesday, October 5th, the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow, hosted a workshop on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in the tourism industry.

The topic of sex crimes involving children is currently the focus of formal and informal news in Belize today. Two recent domestic cases have caused public outrage. However, Mrs. Barrow is calling everyone to arms to fight all forms of sexual exploitation of Belizean children. She asked, “When you look into the eyes of some of our Belizean children, will you feel their pain? Will you feel their shame and guilt for the things that have happened to them for which they had no control?” She continued, “The commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of sexual violence that continues to be perpetrated on our children is inexcusable.”

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is an ugly factor in the tourism industry that we have chosen to ignore. That will no longer be the case. Mrs. Barrow said, “We can no longer treat sexual exploitation and abuse as taboo issues, when they are so rampant in our society.” The Belize Tourism Board and the Belize Tourism Industry Association collaborated with the office of the Special Envoy to host the workshop. Mrs. Barrow said we welcome tourists who come to enjoy our “sandy beaches, vibrant diving grounds, breathtaking Mayan temples, and pristine forests… our economy has come to depend on them”. However, she said we must send a very clear message to those who come to Belize to seek and prey upon “our most precious and valuable resource- OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT FOR SALE”.  She commended the BTB and BTIA for stepping up to fight CSEC because they play an important role since it is the tour operators, tour guides and hoteliers at the forefront of the industry who can help to identify and report perpetrators.

Jim Scott, President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association and General Manager of the Radisson, spoke about his experience with sexual predators in the tourism industry. The Radisson has signed unto the “Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.” One of the incidents he experienced was when an airline company called to book rooms for distress passengers (flight passengers that need to book rooms last minute due to flight cancellation). The front desk team noticed that one of the male passengers was accompanied by a young Belizean girl. Professionalism prevented the staff from interrogating about the young girl. The man registered a room for one. The training that the staff undergo caused the front desk personnel to alert the security and ensure that the man does not enter the room with the young girl. When he attempted to do so the security stopped him by letting him know that the girl cannot enter the room because she is not a registered guest. The man took the young girl to the restaurant and somehow eventually managed to get her to the room. The staff called the police and they came and took the girl away. It is not known if the man was charged in that instance but Scott said there have been instances where sexual predators visiting the Radisson have been charged based on staff reports to police. He said, “The real sad thing is to imagine the amount that we haven’t been able to stop.” He said it is a known fact that there are tour guides and taxi men who provide such service for tourists. They find young girls and boys for them. Some put it more bluntly, “They are pimping out our children.”

Hon. Peter Eden Martinez, Minister of Human Development, also commended the BTB and BTIA on their commitment to fight CSEC. He said we all need to do our part to stop this destructive practice. His ministry is working along with the office of the Special Envoy on a number of initiatives to raise awareness on CSEC in Belize. Those include the launch of the national plan against CSEC which Mrs. Barrow hopes to accomplish by the end of this year. At the opening of the workshop a Public Service Announcement premiered which highlighted the workshop’s theme: “Let us not by inaction be accomplices to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children”. The PSA is the first of a series that focuses on sex tourism and local exploitation. In addition to the PSAs, the Special Envoy has partnered with UNICEF and is working on the production of a “good touch, bad touch” story book to help parents and teachers speak to their children about sexual abuse. The most progressive move to combat CSEC is a lobbying effort to get the legislature to pass harsher laws on sex crimes against children. Amendments have already been presented to the Attorney General’s Ministry for final vetting before proceeding to Cabinet.  

The workshop was a follow up to the National Symposium on CSEC held in August of 2010.