May 28, 2010, 1:51 PM
It is a very positive step to see the issue of sex tourism being discussed openly in the Gambian media. The Gambia Tourism Authority sponsors a weekly radio programme on West Coast Radio called "The Tourist" and last week there was a discussion on this very topic. The purpose of the programme is to sensitise Gambians on thematic issues affecting the sector. The topic of discussion last Wednesday was tourism and the media. How the media and the tourism industry can team up to increase the awareness and the significance of the tourism industry in The Gambia.
In his welcoming address, The producer Mr. Ousman Kebbeh thanked the media for the wonderful contribution in sensitising the general public in tourism awareness. He called on the media to work hand in hand with The Gambia Tourism Authority especially on issues relating to sex tourists exploiting children. This is a vital role and one that we in the media are very dedicated to. It is of course all of our responsibilities to ensure that we protect our young people but the media has an especially important role to play. This issue must continue to be discussed so that all people in the nation will be aware of the danger or tell tale signs that this terrible activity is taking place.
It was stated on the programme that many of the girls involved come from deprived socio-economic backgrounds, have dropped out of school or have been uprooted from rural areas and lost the protection of their extended families. According to a report issued by Bakary Badjie, programme officer with the non- profit coalition the Child Protection Alliance CPA, sexual relations between children and tourists are shifting from hotels, deeper into communities, where it is harder to track.
This is why it is especially vital that all people be continually sensitised so that the authorities can be informed if it is going on in any particular area away from the well-patrolled tourist hot spots. We benefit greatly from tourism in this country but each and every one of us has a responsibility to protect our young people and help stamp out this horrific practice which is an unfortunate downside to the industry.