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Sin in Paradise

A five-month undercover investigation conducted by Tehelka has revealed that hundreds of Europeans — British, Germans, Dutch, French, Swiss and Swedish — visit Goa to seek children for sexual gratification. They come to Goa because it is easy, and cheap, to sexually abuse a child here. On the run after crackdowns on cheap child-sex tourism in Thailand and Sri Lanka, the paedophile bus has rolled into Goa. And turned the picture-postcard tourism destination into an arena of perversity and of horrors. Goa has made an alarming transition from being a laid-back resort to a paedophile’s paradise. And the government, despite knowledge of this debased crime, despite alerts from international agencies, chooses to look the other way. A report by VK Shashikumar

European paedophiles have virtually kick started a cottage industry of child sex abuse in Goa wherein poor parents, an uncaring society, a callous bureaucracy, a corrupt police and an insensitive government look the other way to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children. Goa beckons preferential child sex abusers, otherwise known as paedophiles, who travel in order to sexually abuse children because such crimes are tolerated in India and hardly ever lead to conviction.

One estimate by Child Relief and You (cry) indicates that over 10,000 paedophiles visit Goa every year. Another assessment by Children’s Rights in Goa (crg) says that at any given point there are at least 100 paedophiles on the prowl in Goa. According to field data collected by national and international child rights organisations, a paedophile in Goa sexually exploits at least 20 children during his or her visit.

This exposé is a startling revelation of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s passive connivance in turning Goa into a sex tourism destination. As paedophiles roam the streets of Goa, the state government has looked the other way in its quest for more tourism revenues.

And Parrikar has been sitting tight on an explosive report on child-related sex crimes perpetrated by foreigners since 2001. He has buried the report because he does not want the report to affect the state’s tourism revenues. The latest government statistics show that 3,21,399 foreign tourists visited Goa between April 2003 to March 2004 and the state earned Rs 3,000 crore in foreign exchange.

Goa is a popular destination among Europeans. Of the 1,20,653 foreign tourists that visited Goa by chartered flights last year, the British comprised 78,000, which is almost 65 percent of the total. The Russians were second highest with 18,987, Swedes 7,732, Germans 5,439 and Finns 4,032. According to Goa’s Tourism Minister, Mathany Saldanha, “The government is trying its best to attract high-spending tourists by participating in different marts, organising road shows, etc. abroad”.

In 2001, the uk government commissioned a top-notch former police investigator, Ric Wood, to map the extent of tourism-related paedophilia in Goa. Wood, an expert on obtaining information from witnesses to serious crimes, has worked closely with police in Italy, Ireland, Turkey and India to develop their witness interviewing skills.

August 14, 2004

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