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PNG told to address issue before reputation develops

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 12, 2009) – Child sex tourism is "a very real threat" to Papua New Guinea because sex tourists are now eyeing the Pacific where law enforcement is ineffective, a former child exploitation investigator with the Australian Federal Police has warned.

"Sex tourists are reported to be targeting Pacific countries," Ian Hopley, who served as a police officer with the Victoria police for 32 years, said.

According to Mr. Hopley, sex tourists are targeting PNG and other Pacific countries where "attitudes to the sexual abuse of children are lax and where law enforcement in this area is lacking".

Hopley and his business partner, Carl Collins, run CACET Global, a child abuse education and training consultancy based in South Australia.

CACET Global, in collaboration with Pace PNG, Port Moresby City Mission and the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC), has already conducted three major training and awareness courses on child abuse and sexual exploitation in PNG.

Hopley, who served as an investigator with various units, including the child exploitation unit, warned that the issue must be addressed or PNG would "earn a reputation for being a soft target for sex tourists".

"There is clear evidence that many tourism operators or hoteliers clearly turn a blind eye to child abuse, especially the sexual abuse of children," he said.

He warned that the Government must seriously address this issue or Papua New Guinea’s image abroad would be tarnished because "it has the potential to stop vital tourism kina coming into the country" and expanding PNG’s potential.

"PNG must not earn a reputation for being a soft target for sex tourists."

Hopley was also concerned that child and sexual abuse had become rampant in PNG and the community must take a proactive step to fight the problem.

He said the police had a major role to play in identifying cases of child abuse and exploitation and thoroughly investigate cases.

Hopley said all stakeholders, including family, teachers, health workers, church workers, politicians and the media, must take a stand to fight child abuse and exploitation.

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