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Zero tolerance for child sex tourism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Tourist Board, with UNICEF support, launches action plan against Child Sex Tourism

COLOMBO, 18 June, 2006 - A two year action plan to stop the commercial exploitation of Sri Lanka’s children has been launched today.  While the exact numbers are not known, it’s estimated that thousands of Sri Lankan children are drawn into prostitution every year, the majority of them boys.  These children are exploited by foreign tourists, as well as by local people.

The campaign will target tourists, children and adolescents, hoteliers, journalists, families and community leaders with the message that there is ‘zero tolerance’ for child sex tourism.  As well as mass media campaigns on television, radio and in newspapers, messages will be relayed to tourists through a range of devices: in-flight magazines and videos, billboards, posters, car-stickers and flyers.  Legal penalties for the sexual exploitation of children range from five to 20 years imprisonment.

“Sexual exploitation in tourism has become a totally unacceptable phenomenon worldwide and is reaching an alarming level,” said the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Udaya Nanayakkara.  “Quite often child sex tourism is ignored and denied by many actors in the tourism industry.  I am confident that we will be able to put a stop to the abuse of Sri Lankan children as a result of tourism.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that 1.8 million children globally are exploited in the multi-billion dollar commercial sex industry, which includes child sex tourism.  The most vulnerable children in Sri Lanka are those from poor and marginalized communities who have little supervision from their families.  Children are lured into prostitution with money, clothes, pens, sweets, food and sometimes the chance to travel overseas.

Last year 549,000 foreign tourists visited Sri Lanka, with the figure projected to rise to 600,000 in the current year, and to one million by 2010.

“A child who is a victim of sexual abuse may suffer serious, lifelong or even life-threatening consequences,” said UNICEF Senior Programme Coordinator Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque.  “As the first country in South Asia with a national plan of action to combat child sex tourism, Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity to lead the way for other countries in the region.  UNICEF compliments the Sri Lanka Tourist Board on this worthy initiative.”

The action plan will be carried out by Sri Lanka Tourist Board with financial and technical support from UNICEF.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information please contact:

Junko Mitani, Communication Officer, UNICEF Sri Lanka, Tel: +94 11 255 5276, ext. 250, Mobile: +94 77 741 6742
Francis Mead, Communication Officer, UNICEF Sri Lanka, Tel: 94 11 255 5276 ext. 282, Mobile: +94 77 316 5379
Udaya Nanayakkara, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Tel: +94 11 238 2208





16 June 2006: UNICEF Senior Programme Officer Dr. Yasmin Haque describes the increased violence in Sri Lanka and its effect on children.
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