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Tourism Minister warns pedophiles

May 9, 2012, 3:15 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The minister of Tourism, Fatou Mass Jobe Njie, has issued a stern warning to pedophiles, stressing that Destination Gambia will not allow its excellent image to be tarnished by a few unscrupulous tourists.

“We will do everything possible to preserve our enviable image, and thus remain much sought after and a leading responsible tourism destination in Africa,” she said.

Tourism Minister Jobe was speaking at a forum, on the Gambia Tourism Board’s code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in the tourism sector.

The two-day forum organized by the Child Protection Aliance, CPA, for key stakeholders in the tourism sector, including hoteliers; tourist guides and tourist taxi drivers, as well as craft market vendors.

The minister said “children are our greatest resources, and are placed very high on the Gambia’s development agenda.”

Therefore, she informed the participants that no stone will be left unturned to nurture their mental, physical and social development, so that they grow up becoming proud and dignified citizens of this country.

The minister pointed out that the Gambia government has enacted the Tourism Offences Act 2003, and the Children’s Act 2005 to foster the well-being of children.

In fact, the Tourism Offences Act 2003 is currently been reviewed with a view to making it more responsive to the current circumstances and needs, she announced.

The Tourism ministry has developed a code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in tourism, and a training manual to counteract child sex tourism in The Gambia, she went on.

“These measures, among others, are the milestone achievements, and unambiguous manifestations of the fervent desire of our political leadership to create a protective, as well as an enabling environment for childrento grow and become dignified citizens”, she continued.

Minister Jobe stressed that building a protective environment for children is a commitment and responsibility, “that we are morally bound to, and one that we should neither abdicate nor falter on.”

She noted that the gathering testified to the desire and resolve to ensure that Gambian children grow in an environment that is safe for them as children, where they are neither abused nor exploited for whatever reasons.

“We want to see impunity end for those who abuse and exploit children or turn a blind eye to their abusive plights,” she added.

According to the Tourism minister, the sexual exploitation of children is very serious vice, which if not properly checked, has the potential and capacity to derail all efforts to develop tourism.

She said the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is unacceptable, and must be eradicated wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.

She urged all to implement the provisions of the tourism code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in tourism, and to enforce the Tourism Offences Act 2003, adding “we have the obligation, morally and legally, to protect our children and the tourism industry.”

The director of Social Welfare, Fanta Bai Secka, joined the Tourism minister in declaring zero tolerance for child abusers. “Our children need the protection of all and sundry”, she declared.

She noted that The Gambia is signatory to the legal instruments on protecting and promoting the rights of , and that as a country “we are bound to ensure that the rights of the children are protected, promoted and fulfilled”.

Mrs. Secka believes that despite efforts in the area of children’s rights in The Gambia, couple with a high political commitment, misconceptions still persist regarding the significance of child rights.

She recalled that studies have shown that children in The Gambia are vulnerable, and are victims of exploitation.

“My office in partnership UNICEF conducted a study on the sexual exploitation of children in The Gambia, and the study indicated that children’s rights are violated in our homes, communities as well as in the trading sector.”

She stressed that tourism contributes greatly to the economy, but despite that the report revealed the sugar daddy and bumsters syndrome, and that these bumsters are also using tourists to violate children’s rights.

Ms Secka called for the protection and promotion of children’s rights so as to allow every child to smile, adding that there be zero tolerance for using children as sex slaves in the tourism sector and that all should join in this crusade.

Njundu Drammeh, national coordinator of the Child Protection Alliance, who moderated the session, reminded the participants about the aims of the forum.

According to him, the forum sought to raise awareness on the code of conduct, and ensure greater protection of children from abuse and exploitation in tourism in The Gambia.

He called on them to join the crusade to protect children from child sex tourism, noting that the presence of the Tourism minister for first time at the CPA program demonstrated commitment to the cause of children at the highest level.