COLOMBO, June 19, 2006 (AFP) – The United Nations agency for children Monday announced the launch of a media campaign to discourage the sexual exploitation of Sri Lankan children by tourists. “A child who is a victim of sexual abuse may suffer serious, lifelong or even life-threatening consequences,” said UNICEF senior programme coordinator Yasmin Ali Haque. UNICEF said the two-year awareness campaign, comprising mainly of newspaper advertisements, the broadcast of video clips and distribution of brochures, will specifically target the tourism industry.
“While the exact numbers are not known, it’s estimated that thousands of Sri Lankan children are drawn into prostitution every year, the majority of them boys,” UNICEF said in a statement.
“These children are exploited by foreign tourists, as well as by local people.”
The agency is spending half a million dollars on the campaign, which aims to to educate local communities about the evils of child prostitution.
“Sexual exploitation in tourism has become a totally unacceptable phenomenon worldwide, (but) is reaching an alarming level,” UNICEF quoted chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Udaya Nanayakkara as saying.