Best Travel Destination for Child Prostitution? Malaysia?

Child Prostitution Malaysia

Is Child abuse through Tourism part of “Malaysia Truly Asia” ?

Tourism is big business in Malaysia. Abusing children is more lucrative than exploiting adults in the travel and tourism industry. According to Child Rights International Network,  Malaysia is a Haven for Child Prostitution.

The upcoming PATA Mart in Langkawi demonstrates the importance of the travel business in this ASEAN country. Looking at the PATA Mart agenda, human trafficking of children is not yet on the agenda. Is this an uncomfortable subject to discuss? PATA had demonstrated their support for Child Protection in the past. This will hopefully happen again in September.

Child Protection may no longer be a priority for UNWTO after Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili quietly and with not even an explanation to long-serving members canceled all meetings of the UNWTO Child Protection Committee as soon as he took office.

Coordinated with the United Nations, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, ECPAT in Bangkok today is ringing alarm bells loud and clear. ECPAT released their  ECPAT-Country-Overview-Malaysia-2018 , a devastating report about the extent of child prostitution, human trafficking and the legality of child marriage in Malaysia. Malaysia is a peaceful mostly Islamic South East Asian country, and a great destination for excellent food, nature, cities, and beaches. Malaysia is a dream travel destination.

ECPAT’s devastating report opens the dark side of Tourism to Malaysia. This dark side includes human trafficking and exploiting children through prostitution, child marriage. It’s a massive problem in Malaysia.

The report demonstrates human traffickers may be exploiting children through prostitution in Malaysia because among other reasons – it is more lucrative than exploiting adults.

ECPAT International, a global network of NGOs, has released a report detailing the scale of the sexual exploitation of children in the country which highlights this worrying trend. The document says that it can be more than twice as profitable to sexually exploit children than adults. And while reliable data on this topic is difficult to find, it is thought that at least 150 children a year are being sexually exploited in Malaysia in this manner.

“Prostitution is illegal in Malaysia, yet it remains widespread,” says Mark Kavenagh, Head of Research at ECPAT International. “Indications are that a significant number of young women and girls, from across Southeast Asia – are sexually exploited in this way in Malaysia. They are often tricked into the sex trade after having been recruited for what they thought was going to be work in restaurants, hotels and beauty salons. There are also cases of marriage being used to recruit, such as with Vietnamese women and girls who entered into brokered marriages and were later forced into sex work.”

While it is difficult to quantify the number of child victims who have been trafficked for sexual purposes, Malaysia’s relatively porous borders and location in central Southeast Asia make it a destination, transit country and source country for trafficking to serve both domestic and tourist markets.

Child marriages, which remain legal in some cases in Malaysia, also endanger children, says ECPAT. “We know that child early or forced marriage can be devastating to children, from preventing their right to education to exposing them to sexual violence,” explained Kavenagh. “Sometimes children forced into marriage are subsequently sold by family members.”

The report also warns that online child sexual exploitation is a growing concern, with Malaysia now ranked third amongst ASEAN countries in terms of possession and distribution of child sexual abuse material. The live streaming of child sexual abuse, online grooming of children for sexual purposes, and sexual extortion of children are all on the rise according to ECPAT.

However, Malaysia has made progress in tackling trafficking in recent years, and the United States government recently acknowledged Malaysia’s efforts to strengthen enforcement of the law and expand trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Malaysia also recently passed the 2016 amendment to the Child Act that established a registry of child sex offenders, and the Sexual Offenses Against Children Act 2017, which came into force this year and strengthened child protection by criminalizing a broader array of activities. However, after good progress in 2017 saw the country upgraded, Malaysia was downgraded to the “Tier 2 watch list” in the 2018 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons report.

The ECPAT report’s recommendations also call on Malaysia to increase efforts to better understand how it is impacted by child sexual exploitation, alleging that there is no apparent initiative to increase the scope of research done on the sexual exploitation of children in Malaysia.

“We know that this crime is a massive problem, but it is also clear that there are significant gaps in our understanding of the issue – both in Malaysia and the region,” says Kavenagh. “This is a crime that happens in the shadows. Criminals like shadows. ECPAT would like to invite the Malaysian government to help us address this as a matter of urgency.”

Malaysia cannot lose face in the global travel industry and should aggressively and immediately address this issue more seriously.  It’s important for Malaysia as a leading holiday destination to become a leader and not a perpetrator of this issue.