Countries in the Indian Ocean reached out to Madagascar recently and accepted that country to the Vanilla Island Tourism Organization. Several high level events and meetings to increase tourism to that country are a promising sign of necessary changes. The movie Madagascar had put the island nation on the radar screen of international travel. Such cooperation is important and Madagascar would be wise to increase international partnerships.
If Madagascar wants to be successful and accepted in international tourism the problem of child prostitution and Sex Tourism needs to be addressed immediately and before a tourism industry can be developed successfully.
Children, mostly from rural areas, are subject to conditions of domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor in mining, fishing, and agriculture within the country. Most child trafficking occurs with the involvement of family members, but friends, transport operators, tour guides, and hotel workers also facilitate the enslavement of children.
A child sex tourism problem exists in coastal cities, including Tamatave, Nosy Be, and Diego Suarez, as well as the capital city of Antananarivo; some children are recruited for work in the capital using fraudulent offers of employment as waitresses and maids before being forced into the commercial sex trade on the coast. The main sources of child sex tourists are France, Germany, and Switzerland. Parents sell young women into marriages, some of which are short-term, often for significant sums of money.
The Government of Madagascar must step up efforts to combat efficiently the scourge of child sexual exploitation, duly protect all children at risk and victims of sale and sexual exploitation and severely punish offenders. Ms. Maalla M’jid a United Nations special Rapporteur expressed deep concerns at the playing down of sexual exploitation of children and at the impunity benefitting perpetrators.
“The scourge of sexual exploitation of children through prostitution or sex tourism is omnipresent and too often justified by poverty. Its exponential growth, in particular since 2009, underlined by all stakeholders met, is alarming. Its actual scope remains difficult to determine, due, among other factors, to reluctance to report and fear of reprisals. The low number of reported cases is very rarely followed by heavy sanctions, as provided by Malagasy law,” the expert stressed at the end of her official visit to Madagascar.
A Special UN reporter noted the alarming poverty affecting 92% of the population, as a result of successive political crisis. This great socio-economic precariousness affecting families and communities has considerably increased the number of children out of school and the vulnerability of children to all forms of economic and sexual exploitation.
Sheraised with concern the survival strategy adopted by many parents who encourage their children to enter prostitution.
During her mission to Madagascar from 15 to 26 July, Ms. Maalla M’jid met with various State and local authorities, as well as representatives from UN agencies, the diplomatic community, civil society and the private sector. She also met child victims and went to the main spots of child sexual exploitation in Antananarivo, Toliara, Nosy Be and Toamasina.
Madagascar has a relatively complete legal framework but the implementation of these laws is significantly compromised by a lack of effectiveness due to corruption, impunity and difficult access for children to reporting mechanisms ensuring their protection and security. Amicable settlements take place at the expense of the rights of children, whose voice is rarely taken into account.
Furthermore, numerous efforts have been undertaken: the National Committee for the Protection of Children, Child Protection Networks, Centers for legal and psychological counseling, the “Green Line,” and awareness-raising campaigns aiming at combatting these crimes.
Despite all these initiatives, care and assistance to children remains very partial and suffers from a significant lack of resources. Budgets allocated to social services have been drastically reduced, especially affecting the Ministry of Population and Social Affairs which, in spite of being the cornerstone of child protection and social protection, only has 0,68% of the total State budget.
The Special Rapporteur stressed the gravity of the situation and the necessity to act urgently in order to ensure an integrated protective framework for children. The eradication of the sale and sexual exploitation of children in Madagascar will be a lengthy process which will require guaranteeing the strengthening of institutions’ capacities and services for children, the fight against impunity, operational inter-sectoral coordination, the establishment of sustainable socio-economic alternatives and the promotion of protective social norms. These measures will be dependent on a stable political context respectful of human rights.
“It is unacceptable that so many lives of Malagasy children are sacrificed under the excuse of the current political and economic crisis,” the Special Rapporteur said, insisting on the need to develop a responsible, ethical and protective tourism, reminding the responsibility of countries of origin of sex tourists. Ms. Maalla M’jid encouraged the international community to support the establishment of integrated child protection and development plans at the local level in order to efficiently combat all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children.