Child Sex Tourism

Article excerpt

Few issues have gained such universal support as the right of all children to be free from sexual abuse. All countries of the world but two have signed the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Article 34 of which stipulates that State Parties have the obligation to protect children from "all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse".

Children are most likely to experience sexual exploitation or abuse at the hands of a family member or of someone known to them. There is also evidence, however, that over and above intra-familial sexual abuse, there exists a transnational market for the sexual services of children. The general pattern is that "tourists "from developed countries (including Australia) seek out the sexual services of children in developing countries. Children in these countries may be vulnerable to sexual exploitation due to poverty, social dislocation, family breakdown, and prior experiences of sexual victimisation, and/ or homelessness. Jn some cases, children may actively seek out customers for their sexual services as a means of economic survival. These circumstances do not change the fact that sexual activity with children is universally condemned as an abuse of human rights and is, in many countries, a crime. This paper provides an overview of the Australian Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Act 1994 and reviews a number of cases which have been prosecuted since it became law.

Adam Graycar

Director

Today, twenty-four countries around the world have legislation that makes "child sex tourism", and its associated practices, a criminal conduct, even when the act concerned was committed overseas (ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) February/March 1999, p. 3) Australia introduced offences relating to "child sex tourism" in 1994. Since this time, a number of cases have proceeded through the courts and resulted in some substantial convictions. This paper reviews the progress of this legislation 5 years down the track, noting the successes and difficulties that have been experienced in relation to the legislation.

The Legislation

As a State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Australia has specific obligations with respect to the human rights of children. Article 34 stipulates that:

State Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, State Parties shall, in particular, take all appropriate national, bilateral, and multilateral measures to prevent:

* The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity.

* The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices.

* The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

In 1994, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Act 1994 (Cth), an Act which introduced a new "Part IIIAChild Sex Tourism" into the Crimes Act. Despite the name of Part IIIA, the legislation covers a wide range of sexual activities with children under the age of 16 committed overseas. As a Member of the House of Representatives noted in 1994, "the bill should more properly be entitled the Crime (Overseas Exploitation of Children) Bill" (cited in Hall 1998, p. 95).

The philosophy underpinning the legislation is that countries are principally responsible for sexual abuse and the exploitation of children committed in that country. Laws with extra-territorial application, such as the Australian child sex tourism offences, are intended to fill the gap when countries are unwilling or unable to take action against known offenders. The rationale is that child-sex offenders should not escape justice simply because they are in a position to return to their home country.

In order to be liable for prosecution under the Act, the offender must have been, at the time of the alleged offence, an Australian citizen or resident; a body corporate incorporated under a law of the Commonwealth, State, or Territory; or a body corporate that carries on its activities principally in Australia (Crimes Act, s50AD). …