Australians make up the largest portion of foreign sex offenders against children in Thailand, according to a study.
Researchers at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore studied patterns of arrests and prosecutions between 1995 and 2006 in tackling the US$31.6 billion ($36.6bn) industry in underage sex trafficking.
Bernadette McMenamin, CEO of Child Wise Australia, says child sex trafficking remains a hidden problem that most Australians have become complacent about – even though a main root of the global crime is the Australian offender.
“People tell us, `It happens overseas. Isn’t that an issue we talked about years ago?’ But what we’ve found is that … the supply and demand factors fuelling child sex slavery have actually grown,” she said.
Ms McMenamin says most Australians view the price of petrol as a greater concern than the welfare of foreign children.
“We have increased awareness and there have been some arrests but overall we’re not putting a dent in the problem,” she says.
“We need people to try and think beyond what’s going on in their lives.”
“The number of children entering the trade has grown. Efforts to combat this problem have not succeeded despite pouring money into overseas governments.”
A recent report by a global network of groups against child sex slavery concludes is a “massive human rights violation that is currently going largely unnoticed around the world”.
A new global campaign called “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People,” will be launched today to help reverse the trend and bring the issue back into the homes of the average Australian.
Being run across 45 countries, the campaign aims to raise awareness, conduct a survey on people’s attitudes and lobby national governments.
In February, Child Wise will step up the campaign by backing stalled amendments to child sex tourism laws in the Federal Parliament.
Rather than seeing authorities wait for child sex to occur before acting, the amendments seek out preparatory offences: stopping sex offenders from travelling overseas, buying flights and possessing child pornography.
“We’ve waited long enough,” Ms McMenamin says of the proposed changes.
“We’re simply not keeping up with travelling sex offenders.”