A recent study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has identified the Gambia as one of Africa’s top destinations for child sex tourism.
It said on Tuesday in Banjul that poverty, corruption and weak law enforcement, has undermined the government’s efforts to protect children from abuse.
It noted that hundreds of girls and boys are sexually exploited in the country, where every second person lives on little more than a dollar a day.
UNICEF accused some parents of trusting tourists for financial assistance, while the study revealed that others turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of their children to earn extra income.
Sheriff Manneh, an officer with the Tourism Security Unit in Banjul, which was formed specifically to focus on curbing sex tourism, confirmed that in West Africa, Gambia remained the main destination for child sex tourism. He noted that yearly more than 150,000 people visit Gambia which is only a short flight from Europe.
“Most tourists come from Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Germany.
Omar Jarjue, a tour guide in Kololi, disclosed that many tourists are coming for only that reason, to have sex with children.
“We see it happening every day. It has become a normal thing. As child sex tourism is more and more heavily policed in Asian countries like Thailand and Cambodia, lesser known destinations like the Gambia are gaining in popularity,’’ he said.
The Child Protection Alliance (CPA), an umbrella body of about 40 local non-profit organisations, opened up that sex tourists bluntly offer poverty-stricken parents money for their children.
It said others befriend children who sell food and drinks on beaches. CPA said government has stepped in and reformed several laws to curb child sex tourism.
It said that a “Sexual Offences Act and a Responsible Tourism Policy’’ are meant to protect children. In
2014, the National Assembly signed off on a special tribunal to hand down hefty fines and stiff sentences to sex offenders.
CAP said awareness programmes have been launched to educate hotel staff, community leaders, teachers and police officers.
“Hotels are now prohibited from allowing adults to take minors to their rooms.
“We check the identity documents of all visitors to determine their age,” explains Sillah Darboe, a receptionist at the Bungalow Beach Hotel in Kololi. If staff don’t follow the rules, they are suspended or fired, he says.
CPA National Coordinator, Njundu Drammeh, said that the alliance has formed dozens of watchdog groups, which monitor beaches, restaurants and bars in holiday towns and report cases of child sex tourism to the authorities.
He lamented that corruption and weak law enforcement create stumbling blocks in the fight against child sex tourism.
Drammeh identified prosecution as the major challenge to success, while sex tourists find ever new ways to circumvent the law. He
said instead of the tourists staying in the big hotels, they now stay in small motels or in privately rented out accommodation,” he said.
Drammeh said that part of the problem is also that government needs to carefully balance the fight against child sex tourism with the need to promote the Gambia as a thought-after tourism destination.
“Tourism makes up roughly 15 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and supports more than 80,000 jobs in the small nation of less than 2 million people.
A Gambian single mother recalled that a tourist offered to pay for Sirreh, her daughter’s school fees and buy her clothes.
“He came to our house, took my daughter out for walks and he gave us a lot of money. I thought it was a kind-hearted, charitable act from a well-off European. Only much later, weeks after the man had returned to Europe, did Sirreh dare to tell her mother that he had sexually abused her.
“I destroyed my own daughter, all because of poverty,” cries Sanneh, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
The woman said that every dollar spent by holiday makers and business people is important to keep the nation afloat, tempting law enforcement officers to look the other way. (dpa/NAN)
Yaya Jammeh is the main culprit as far as sexual abuse , rape and kidnap is concern in The Gambia . Yaya Jammeh raped hundreds of young girls from 16 years to 19 years and he is also responsible for a lot of divorce in the country because he cannot keep his two and half inches thing to himself especially if he see beautiful women. As a greed person , jammeh believe that he should have any one who is beautiful . If Jammeh can openly organized sex party at statehouse and kanillia then why we blame holiday makers ? Are Gambian people not aware of Jammeh’s sexual terrorism ? Majority of Gambians are very aware of Jammeh’s sexual mania and predatory behavior . We need to have someone in statehouse with good moral values who can be better role model for young people but currently we have sexual pervert in the statehouse . Jammeh has no moral values whatsoever . All those quranic recitations in statehouse at night were used as a pretext to have sex with young vulnerable girls . Yaya jammeh is so evil that while the elderly people were busy reciting the Quran , he would rape these young vulnerable girls who were invited to statehouse without their parents . In order to restore morality and decency in The Gambia ,we must replace Yaya jammeh with someone who has good moral vaues . What is happening in The Gambia , you will never see it in the west . A complete moral decadence .