Though South Africa has long been hailed a top tourist destination, a recent study indicates that the country’s tourism industry is not exclusively driven by beaches and safari’s. Molo Songolo, in collaboration with Fair Trade Tourism in a study spanning three years, analyzed the correlation between potential child abusers and the tourism industry. The findings of the research indicated “very strongly” that every aspect of tourism products are actively used within South Africa by national and international offenders. The initiative will, therefore, equip hotel staff with basic skills to assist in identifying potential child abusers and their victims.
Regional development manager of Fair Trade Tourism, Netsai Sibanda, explained that Molo Songolo and Fair Trade Tourism secured funding from ECPAT Netherlands that will be directed toward country-wide capacity building training.
The initiative will include the training of all hotel staff in understanding; what to look for, what to do, and how to report cases of sexual abuse.
“Take out of your mind the idea that it is a paedophile, since the vast majority of offenders is people like you and me – your priest, head master, male and female.”
Doctors for Life statistics indicate that of the 18 million documented children within South Africa, one in three girls and one in five boys will be molested by the age of 18.
Parents travelling with children often choose destinations based on child friendly provisions, hotel staff should, therefore, be aware that children booked in rooms that have Wifi access are potential victims.
Offenders are also reported to make use of financial power to lure children with extravagant gifts and clothes.
Sibanda further explained that within South Africa there exists a huge domestic and regional market for sexual predators. Offenders, therefore, include individuals who are from neighbouring countries, as well as South Africans traveling within South Africa – “this category surpasses international tourists.”
“We encourage hotel staff to always ask for identification and to always be aware of who is on the premises and who is going up to the rooms,” Sibanda explained.
The initiative aims to train staff to understand that there is not “a one size fits all” profile for potential offenders and, therefore, encourages the application of “common sense.”
According to the law, an individual under the age of 18 cannot consent to a situation in which they are sexually exploited.
“Once people learn [the law], coupled with common sense and a bit of hints, our hotels and tourism businesses will be well positioned to start to identify suspected cases,” Sibanda concluded.
VOC (Thakira Desai)