Shafiq R Khan


Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Tourism

1. Causes of Child Prostitution

1.1 Poverty: Absolute and Relative

The respondents of this study {A Situational Analysis of Child Sex Tourism in India (Kerala and Goa} have voiced poverty as the prime reason for being in the situation that makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Around 70% of the children shared that the situation at home is not conducive for them. The poor economic condition was raised several times by the children interviewed as a reason for running away from home or taking up jobs in hotels or any other establishments. They mentioned that there is no other way to live their life other than earning in some way or other. The case study below illustrates this fact:

I know what can happen to me but I can’t help it – I go out only with foreign tourists, since I get good pay from them. They also give me food, clothes and sometimes gifts”. On further questioning, he said, “Tourists are very good – for one night they pay me Rs. 200/-. Sometimes they take me with them to other states as well. It is a good opportunity to learn English and to visit other places free of cost”. (Anil, Goa, 10 years)

In another instance, we found that there is sense of relative poverty where parents created the sense of “no option”. 7% of the children interviewed are from the upper middle class. They mentioned that though there was no financial crunch, the growing need to have a life of comfort and pleasure was something that dominated their decision of involvement in sexual act.

These children have said that they were unable to coup up with the artificial pressure that created by their parents in one hand and in the other by the society itself. This has also made children vulnerable to be exposed to the exploitative situation.

1.2. Consumerism/Materialism

This factor is related to the above analysis of “relative poverty”. Today, poverty cannot be attributed as the only cause for increase in CSEC. The commodification of individuals, alongside the perceived attractions of the material rewards of life, has contributed to a change in what might be considered appropriate levels of respect and concern within families, neighborhood. The study has shown that this change in values and attitudes have allowed a situation to develop, in which parents have either sold their children to an intermediary or they have allowed children to be with the tourists just for some material gain. From the study finding it is well established that this section of society provides a steady source of children who can be coerced, forced and or tricked, into the sex trade.

Krishna, a 14-year boy from Perambur district, was brought by a neighborhood uncle on the pretext of providing job in a hotel at Kovalam. During the interview he mentioned, “My parents betrayed me. They have sold me to this person for Rs. 10,000/- now they ask me how I am doing and how is my health (he laughed after this conversation sarcastically)”. On further questioning he said, “May be my parents were cheated too– they do not know what I go through everyday”.

As for our culture, we are a community which is losing its roots; today consumerism, individualism, and competition predominate…” (GAN, Chile)

1.3. Illiteracy

Education as a discourse is yet to be understood in its fuller sense. The study has shown that illiteracy is a major hindrance to be well informed about the issues related to wellbeing, self hood and other related issues. Most of the respondents have expressed their ignorance about the consequences of CSEC. Families have no information about the consequences and children covered for the research have learnt about sex either from a very exploitative practice or from friends or movies, thus understanding of sexuality, the consequences of sexual exploitation are not clear to them.

In the narration of a family from Goa have mentioned that children go out with tourists quite often. Sometimes, they spent two/ three weeks with them visiting other places.

Children have reported about itching in their private parts, discharge, but as parents we have never questioned them. We feel they are happy with the relationship because they get good food; clothing, gifts and money which we, parents can’t afford to give them. On discussions about consequences, Parents voiced their concern about children’s health, but they said this is the fate of poor children in our society.

1.4. Migration and Unemployment

This was another factor that came up during our study as of crucial importance to the discussions on vulnerability. In the view of this study, we have found a steady increase in migration of families from places in and around the identified tourism areas. Migration also contributes in making the victim doubly vulnerable owing to a sense of rootless-ness that the migrants experience. For all the respondents (under migrant category) the city of their dream has turned out to be a nightmare. The trauma of exploitation coupled with alienation from their natural environs forces them to continue being exploited instead of returning to their home.

1.5. Family Breakdown / Dysfunction

This category includes single heads of households and reconstituted families. Poor relationships between children and a step-parent, children going missing from home, children being alienated from carers or being cared for by someone other than a parent, are all indicators of heightened risk. Leaving home and family at an early age, and trying to survive on the streets through whatever means are also increasing vulnerability.

Migrants children are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse because they are lonely and they crave for affection”, says Auda Vegas a social worker from Madgaon. Often the children are not even aware of the implications. They simply conclude that this is how all adults behave. Pick-up spots include the frequent parties on the beach or the weekly flea market at Anjuna Beach.

In some families, parents have been described as suffering from physical or mental illness, drug abuse, alcoholism. They are living desperately in difficult and stressful circumstances, homeless, unemployed, mobile, unstable, the combination of which may severely limit their ability to care for and protect their children. “The pimps today no longer use deception, instead they use concern, affirmation, friendship and emotional manipulation to lure girls into... prostitution.”

Young girls are beaten, raped and starved, and thus pressurized into receiving customers. A 14-year-old girl in a Bombay brothel resisted all pressure for three weeks. Consequently, she was put in a small room with a live cobra. She sat there numb, unable to move or sleep for two days, and eventually gave in to her captors.

1.6. Out of School / in the Labour Market

Children that are not in education are vulnerable. Whether this means that they are working, or simply operating outside of the school system, they are more exposed to risks of abuse. Many of the situations of children in the labour market, including living and working on the streets, deny them the protection of family or concerned and responsible adults. Some may be vulnerable to exploitation by other street dwellers, where sexual favours or services are demanded in return for a degree of protection from other gangs.

1.7. Procurement within families

Whether through active recruitment, through increased awareness of the possibility, or decreased resistance to it, where a parent or an older sibling is already involved in the sex trade, other children are more at risk of becoming involved. “Many children we met had been socialized to view “prostitution” as a way to repay their debt of gratitude to their parents, especially by mothers or elder sisters who had been CSWs at some point of time.”

This is not always the case, and there are children of sisters, and mothers continuing to be involved, or returning to prostitution, with the explicit aim of protecting other family members, through providing materially, and thus reducing the economic pressures on the family.

2. Demand Creates its Supply

2.1. Development Policies

The recent adoption of policies defined by market considerations has shifted the emphasis from social welfare to commercialization of almost every aspect of our society. Globalization, large-scale production, foreign investment, multinationals and performances are the new “Mantras” that have replaced the earlier priority, such as poverty alleviation, welfare oriented. The government is obsessed with profit making and so-called development.

“The liberalization of economy in the wake of globalization has vastly diminished traditional livelihood means for the poor. The introduction of modern methods of farming has vastly reduced the need for agricultural workers. This has resulted in depriving those dependent on agricultural labour for a livelihood to a state of no option for economic survival. Large tracts of agricultural land have been converted for commercial aqua production thereby reducing the viability of traditional livelihood.

Likewise mechanized fishing has destroyed the livelihood means of the traditional fisher-folk.(Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, Prajwala, an organization involved in anti trafficking campaigns.)

2.2 Tourism

Although tourism is not the perpetuator of child sexual exploitation, exploiters make use of the facilities offered by the tourism industry (hotels, bars, nightclubs, etc.). In turn, the tourism industry help create a demand by promoting a location's exotic image. Another factor that have been raised by 70% of families interviewed is the loss of their traditional livelihood due to tourism development, primarily e fishing community in Goa and Kovalam in Kerala. They have mentioned that the earnings have drastically gone down. Fishing communities of both the above-mentioned tourism areas have said that the situation that they are in has left them with very few options.

According to a fishing family “I go out early morning for fishing and come back only by evening. My wife works as a domestic help in the morning, in the afternoon she goes with other women to collect firewood, she returns in the evening. All three of my children are not in school. I could not make them study due to financial constraints. They are left behind at home – whole day alone. Tourists flock around our village – they are well connected with our children. I do not know what children do when we are away from home. But I have noticed they get new clothes, gifts and sometime money”. On further questioning, he said “I know my family situation has made my children vulnerable to exploitation, I do not know what to do. Sometime tourists offer money to other families as well, we accept due to poverty.”

This narrative of the fishing family, points out to a situation where the so-called

development “tourism” is instrumental in taking away the traditional occupations of these tourism areas (which are also the space of fishing community for their livelihood), alienating the community from their occupation as well as known surroundings and then providing support to the communities by offering them or their children some materials benefit through the tourist visiting that place.

2.3 Analysis of Perceptions of Various Sectors on “Demand”

Promoting tourism as an “employment generator” has proved to be another factor that leads to vulnerability of children. Most of the children interviewed have said that the reason behind choosing tourism areas as the destination is because they thought that lifestyle there will be very attractive and job opportunities are enormous. This promotion has also made it easy for traffickers to convince families in the villages to give their children for in tourism areas. Besides, the deprivation of their land, traditional activities, another factor that comes to the focus is the visible changes that have been perceived in the character of tourism from its conventional culture and heritage experiencing. Aggressive marketing mechanisms are emphasizing more on the leisure and recreation dimension of tourism. This change towards recreation and leisure has brought in a range of dimensions in the functioning as well as the perceptions of tourism development. The term “recreation and leisure” has been interpreted differently by diverse set of people, often conflicting between sending and receiving cultures.

An interpretation to recreation and leisure had been conveniently used as a motivation to travel for the fulfillment of sexual desires. A segment of tourist has used the tourism industry as a service provider to what is notoriously termed as “sex tourism” – from its initial exploitation of adults for this purpose to exploit and victimize the most vulnerable section of the society – the children. While discussing issues related CST in the focus group discussions with Local NGOs working on child right issues, tour operators and other stakeholders, the following were the perceptions that emerged as factors that create ‘Demand’ for children.

2.4 Inner Mechanisms: Motivation and Core Beliefs

During our fieldwork in Goa, we had conversed with three suspected paedophiles to elicit information on tourism in general, the purpose of their long stay in Goa and their perceptions on tourism related commercial sexual exploitation of children. While talking to them one of them mentioned that he feels jealous when a child is happy and thus he wants to take their childhood away and hurt them like he was hurt in his childhood. Another individual has said that he was sexually abused and he enjoyed it. It did no harm to him. Thus it’ll do children no harm and it’s not abuse. He believes that this is an expression of showing love to children.

During the focus group discussion with Children and local NGOs, masculinity as a factor was raised very strongly by the group members. It was said the ‘having sex’ is an expression of masculinity. A domestic tourist interviewed during the field visit has mentioned that he abuses children those have distant relations with him and he saw his behavior as socially, if not legally, acceptable. He mentioned that he sees no reason to question it. He mentioned clearly that he abused his stepdaughter, explaining that, “It was the way she dressed that made me do it; and she’s got a real sexy body—what could a man do?”

2.6 Perception on Gender and Power

While discussing the link between gender and exploitation, it was said though girl children are more likely to be exploited than boys, but in case of CST it is boys those are mostly exploited. The exploiters are largely male and not too many female. (It is not to say that there are no female paedophiles).

The group on adult sex workers has said that gender plays a vital role in the sexual exploitation. They explained it by saying the males are more mobile and they are taught to do whatever they want to do for their pleasure. This perception of their biological sex has made them believe that they have a right to exploit opposite sex. This perception was shared based on the experience of domestic tourists visiting Goa and Kovalam.

Discussing on the CST, they explained that boys are much more used than girls. This is just because boys get friendly with tourists much more easily and there is no risk of pregnancy. Thus international tourists prefer boy children.

Another factor related to Gender was power that came up as of crucial importance to analyse demand. This was strongly raised by tour operators, guides and other tourism sub-sectors. They said there is nothing new to discuss on the issue. Sex is used as power to dominate underprivileged groups. The same logic applies here, tourists are powerful in terms of monetary power and that is what they use to exploit our children and women. This group has mentioned that children are powerless. They are not vocal and it is easy to exploit them than an adult. Another factor is also these children will do whatever the tourists would ask them for. Thus it is easier to fulfill all the sexual fantasies with a child just because children are not empowered to say “no” to any adults.

2.7 Perception on Sexuality

The focus group discussion with adult sex workers, affected family members have discussed the notion of sexuality as a factor that creates demand. The question was raised on the concept of sexuality. It was said that organizations are working on issues related to CSEC, but the legitimized ways, (such as child marriage) of sexual exploitation are not looked into.

“I was married at the age of 13. I forced to have sex with a man who was 35 years old. When I resisted, they said he is my husband and I have to satisfy his sexual needs. Wasn’t this exploitation? It has continued to happen till I left home and started living on streets”. (Mamata, 20 years old spoke at the focus group discussion with adult sex workers).

This is not a story in isolation. Most of the members have raised sexuality as an identity that leads to demand for children.

2.8 Construction of Childhood

While discussing with tourism sectors on the issue of CST, they mentioned that the perception of childhood is another factor. Foreign tourists have a different notion of childhood. For them who look for children, believes that sex is pleasurable and the child should be given an opportunity to enjoy it. According to this group, the definition of childhood varies from culture to culture. They mentioned that this might be another reason why tourists indulge in sexual activities with children.

2.9 Profit

A group of pimps, middlemen and guides were interviewed for understanding the role of profit in creating demands. All of them (10 member team) have mentioned that they do not exploit children for sex. They exploit them for money. Children are sold in higher price to the customers and thus they bring in more and more children.

“I bring new children to my customers everyday. I get Rs. 2000 – 3500 per child. I am operating on the basis of market demand. It does not bother me, whether it is a child. If I get equal money to sell something else, I will do that as well.” (Faroo, 35 years old broker).

Typology of Children

Migrant Children

Most of the children are migrant labourers from the drought prone regions of Bijapur, Honavar and Gokarna in neighbouring Karnataka migrating to Goa in search of work on construction sites. In case of Kovalam and Varkala in Kerala, most children are from Tamilnadu Uttar Pradesh and other neighbouring states.

Local Children

Contrary to the popular belief that victims of CST are primarily children of migrant labourers, it was found that a significant number of local children too are being lured by the paedophiles who often procure these children under the guise of providing foster care and “better opportunities”. (INSAF, Sexual Abuse and Growth of Paedophilia, 1996)

“Migrants children are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse because they are lonely and they crave for affection”, says Auda Vegas a social worker from Madgaon.

Children staying in hutments off the beach: These children are generally absent from the school during tourist season, as they are enticed by foreigners to spend the day with them on return of some material benefits.

Children staying in coastal villages: Though it is commonly believed that local children are not caught up in tourism related paedophilia, there are evidences reflecting this to be a myth. Children attending formal schools in villages along the coastal belt of Goa revealed that there were children from their villages who spent long periods of time with foreign nationals.

Moreover a teacher from Calangute also reported that absenteeism was a common feature in schools during tourist season.

Children working in restaurants, shacks near the beach Local children working in hotels and other occupations

Freddy Peats’ Gurukul:

In 1982 a boy joined Peats’ institution at the age of seven years. He was the eldest in the family, having two brothers and one sister. His father was unemployed while his mother worked as a tourist guide.”

A sibling group of two others one aged 4 and the other 11 years old joined the Gurukul in 1986. The only relative the children have was their mother who was working in Kuwait and left them with an ‘aunty’ in Benaulim

At the age of six years a boy joined the Gurukul in 1982. His father had died three years prior to his admission into the Gurukul and his mother was not employed.

Another boy joined the institution at the age of nine years, and was 20 when he made his statement in court. His father was jobless and an alcoholic


A majority of children were between the ages of 10 and 18 years. Contrary to the common belief that sexual exploitation is confined to girl children, this study has showed that due to the fact that male children have more mobility than girls, they are the one’s those have witnessed the sexual exploitation in the identified four tourism areas the most.


Evidence of girl children in prostitution is abundant. Boys have been in particularly exploited in terms of paedophilia. There are no evidences of boys being exploited in the organized prostitution set up (which takes place in Red-light area).

Socio-Economic Background

The majority of the children belong to either broken families or are orphans under foster care of a relative. They are from the lower middle class and poor section of the society. The family background reveals that more than 90% of the families are from fishing communities.

A common feature for all the families are heavy debt bondage, constant domestic violence and lack of facilities like education, health etc. Children have expressed this in their narratives. This validates the socioeconomic imparity that lies in our society, which becomes the key instrument to exploit the vulnerability of the situation

“I am from a very poor family. My father is a rickshaw puller and my mother work in a hotel as a housekeeper (Dish washing, sweeping and mopping of the hotel front rooms). I have studied till 3rd Standard after that my father asked me to leave and join work.” (Sonia, 16 years old, Kovalam)

Household income

Majority of the children have mentioned that the household income is so less that they have to do something for survival needs.

Economic coercion needs a critical look

“I have to work in this hotel – whether I like it or not. My home situation is worst than the situation in this hotel. My father earns Rs. 1500/- a month. We are 10-member family with my grand Parents; I don’t like to be on the street. I do not want to have sex with everyone who ever offers. But I can’t help it, tourist pay more than local people. I have to earn Rs. 500/- a day for the survival of my family. My father is a daily wager”.- A child from Kovalam


A majority of children are either not educated or have fairly low education.


A majority of children, have knowledge of more than one language. They are well versed in Hindi and in English as well. Children in Goa have working knowledge of at least one foreign language – either French or German. The language skill is one of the indicators that reveal that the fact that clients are not only local people, they vary from localities to the domestic tourist as well as foreign.

Work Situation

Children interviewed under the category of “Children in work sector "(child labour) who are at risk, most of the children have spoken about the sexual relationship that they are forced to have with senior boys.

The children interviewed are primarily working in small hotels, fish processing units, self-employed as beach boys, trinket sellers or guides to the tourists. During their interview children have mentioned that providing sexual pleasure to their seniors is one of their daily routine jobs.

They have mentioned that working in hotel sector is a double-edged sword – they are exploited by their seniors were they do not get any monetary benefit, on the other hand they are in contact with customers those come to eat in their joints and also have sexual relationship with the hotel boys. In the second case, they receive money, good food and an opportunity to travel to other places as well. This finding has proved that the children those are in the brothel are not only ones those are sexually exploited – children are in direct contact with customers are also vulnerable.

(The Article is based on “A Situational Analysis of Child Sex Tourism in India (Kerala and Goa)”A Report of “END CHILD PROSTITUTION CHILD PORNOGRAPHY & TRAFFICKING OF CHILDREN FOR SEXUAL PURPOSES)

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