PANAJI – With an aim to promote clean and safe tourism, the union ministry of tourism has set out on increasing awareness of its code of conduct, for safe and honourable tourism.
The code which was adopted on July 1, 2010, has not seen uniform implementation.
Acknowledging this, Dr Subhadra Anand, CEO, Save The Children India (STCI) said, “a huge step was taken by the ministry of tourism in adopting the code, but its implementation is still taking baby steps,” adding, “baby steps should become giant strides.”
Anand was speaking at the state level consultation on ‘National code of conduct on safe and honourable tourism’ organised by India tourism held here on Thursday.
It was attended by representatives of 54 classified hotels. Narrating the code’s background, Anand said that the idea for a national tourism code originated in Goa itself, with the founder of STCI Vipula Khadri proposing it.
The code’s objectives are to respect basic rights of both tourists and locals, prevent activities that lead to abuse such as prostitution, sex tourism and forms of sexual exploitation like assault and molestation in tourism, to safeguard the safety of persons especially women and children.
Roma Singh, regional director (west), India tourism, said the ministry has been attempting to create awareness of the code in different stages, with the first stage covering the organised sector.
Chief guest D C Sahoo, state secretary of tourism, felt that “the problem of sex tourism occurs wherever there is tourism.”
“Only a handful of negative incidents are getting highlighted and this is bringing a bad name to the state. Crores of tourists come here and 1-2 (negative) incidents get highlighted. We must see that people coming here should also follow a code of conduct,” Sahoo added.
Sahoo pointed out that there is a difference between sexual subjugation and sexual discrimination. “The code of conduct should go to the grassroots level – to the room boys or waiters as these are the people who come in contact with the tourists,” he said.
Emidio Pinho, child protection officer at Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) India, in his presentation on ‘Human trafficking and exploitation of women and children in India’ noted, that “today Goa is known for its growing sex tourism and is already labelled as a haven for travelling sex offenders.” “Goa is a source, transit and destination for commercial sexual exploitation. While north-eastern girls are preferred for sexual services as they are smart, friendly and fluent in English; Goa is also frequented by female sex tourists who seek services of male escorts,” Pinho said.
He said, that on the government’s part: fixing accountability, political will, and strict law enforcement is needed to curb the menace of sex tourism. “This year, there have been 15 cases registered of women being rescued, while last year saw 48 cases registered,” Pinho said.
Nandini Thakkar of STCI said that, it is a myth that commercial sexual exploitation happens only to the underprivileged or migrants.
“The code puts the onus of implementation on hoteliers. Sensitive nodal officers need to be appointed. Verifications, guest record maintenance should also be done properly,” Thakkar said.