Two independent studies show that pilgrimage centres are turning into hubs for sex tourism, with children being the most vulnerable.
A study conducted nationwide by NGO Gram Niyojan Kendra commissioned by the ministry for women and child development found that after metropolitan cities and places for sightseeing, pilgrim centres were a growing hub. The study covered 68 places of tourist interest.
According to report, domestic tourists were incidentally “overwhelmingly involved” in sex with commercial sex workers while foreign tourists were “engaged” in paedophilia and sex with minors through short-term marriages.
Nevertheless, the study made it clear that foreign tourists visiting India for sex were restricted to a few places rather than the entire country.
Earlier this year, a study conducted by Bangalore-based NGO Equations had said that increasing number of cases of child abuse were being reported from pilgrim sites like Tirupati, Guruvayoor and Puri.
The study – ‘Protecting Children from Sexual Exploitation in Tourism: The Indian Context’ – looked into exploitation of male children, but pointed out that the same was true for women as well.
Both reports have also pointed to the lack of legislation at the state level or detrimental measures to control sex offenders from revisiting sites. Troubled by reports of such blatant violations, the Union tourism ministry is now working on a code of conduct for ethical tourism.