Trial Draws Attention to Child Sex Tourism
Coday, Dennis, National Catholic Reporter
A Frenchman who had sex with an 11-year-old girl while on holiday in Thailand was convicted in a Paris court Oct. 21 of rape and sentenced to seven years. Activists hope the case will help to focus increasing attention on the international sex tourism industry that especially exploits children.
The girl, now 17, was taken to Paris by the United Nations children's agency UNICEF, which is a civil plaintiff in the case, and gave evidence against her alleged attacker. Agence France Presse identified the man as Amnon Chemouil, a 48-year-old railway worker from Paris.
The case represents the gradual uncovering of an extensive network of international tourists traveling to developing countries to have sex with minors. In recent years, there have been about 100 investigations worldwide of sex offenders abusing children abroad, according to End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking, an international nongovernmental organization based in Bangkok.
Since 1996, similar cases have been brought to trial in Australia, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. The United States tried its first case in May.
While organizations like End Child Prostitution and UNICEF acknowledge extreme difficulty in getting hard figures for the numbers of sex tourists, they believe that cheaper airfares and greater freedom to travel in formerly restricted countries provide increasing opportunities for tourists looking to have sex with minors. And the Internet provides an efficient networking tool for individuals to share information on destinations and procurement.
End Child Prostitution offers the following numbers from case studies completed in some countries:
* A recent study in India estimated 9 million prostitutes work there; about 30 percent are children. A further 10 percent reported that they had started their careers in prostitution before they were 18. A large number of these children are trafficked from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.
* It is estimated that 30 percent of commercial sex workers in Cambodia are younger than 18 years old. At least half are forced into the trade, either tricked with promises of high paying jobs or sold.
* In Jamaica, a third of the women interviewed in a recent study of adult female prostitutes said they had been abused through prostitution before their 18th birthday.
* In Latin America, increasing numbers of street children trade sex for money to buy food or drugs. An estimated 25,000 minors are involved in prostitution in the Dominican Republic.
Chemouil was caught because his traveling companion, a Swiss man called Viktor Michel, made a videotape of the sexual encounter in Pattaya, Thailand, in 1994.
Michel identified Chemouil when Swiss police raided his home and found the pornographic recording. They passed the information on to their French counterparts. …