From: The Stream

How can The Gambia stop tourists exploiting children?

West African country relies on tourism revenue but faces battle to combat abuse of young people by visitors.

On Monday, February 10 at 19:30 GMT:
The Gambia’s tourism industry has flourished over the last 55 years – from attracting a mere 300 tourists in 1965 to 162,000 in 2017. The rapid rise in holidaymakers has fuelled The Gambia’s modest economy, with about 20 percent of its annual GDP coming from tourism. But beneath this apparent success story lurks a darker current – the sexual and labour exploitation of children and young people.

The office of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in The Gambia is among the agencies urging ‘stronger measures’ to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation. Their appeal follows a solemn assessment in October by the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio – she pointed to alleged cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children and young people in and around hotels, beaches, restaurants and nightclubs. Children from both The Gambia and other Western African countries are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation “primarily’ by tourists, a 2016 report by ECPAT International and the Gambian Child Protection Alliance (CPA) says.

De Boer-Buquicchio has urged The Gambia’s government to focus on boosting resources and strengthening child protection teams to better safeguard children, but in an interview with the UK’s Sun newspaper she also wants governments around the world to stop predatory sex tourists from flying to the West African country – which is desperate to replace tourism revenue lost after the collapse of British travel operator Thomas Cook.

What needs to change in The Gambia – and beyond – to stop the exploitation and abuse of children there? We’ll be joined by a panel of experts on Monday. Join the conversation.

Read more:
Sexual exploitation of children in The Gambia: my take on the issue – Gambiana
Child labor and forced labor reports: The Gambia – US Department of Labor

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