P.E.A.C.E. Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere
Media attention spurs the government to act
Participating government bodies
Sri Lankan Ministry of Social Welfare, Health, Education, Labour & Social Affairs
Sri Lankan Ministry of Justice
Sri Lankan Ministry of the Interior
Sri Lankan Department of Probation and Child Care (Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Social Welfare)
Sri Lankan Police Department
Ceylon Tourist Board
International Labour Organization (ILO)
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Tourism Organization (WTO)
United Federation of Travel Agents' Associations
International Hotel & Restaurant Association
National Christian Council of Sri Lanka
All Ceylon Buddhist Congress
Ceylon Moor Ladies Association
Young Men's Buddhist Association
Young Women's Christian Association
The sexual exploitation of children in tourism in Sri Lanka has long been characterized by the so-called “beach boys”, children from the impoverished beach-side squats that are near most popular tourist destinations. This problem first attracted attention in the Sri Lankan media in the late 1980s. The journalist Maureen Seneviratne began to study child prostitution as an unforeseen side effect of the then-booming tourist industry, and her efforts led to the foundation in 1989 of one of the first organizations exclusively dedicated to fighting the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, P.E.A.C.E.
Details of campaign
P.E.A.C.E. was characterized from the beginning by an especially media-savvy strategy. The publicly visible and specific problem of beach boys served as a means of starting discussion of more general child welfare issues. A full-time liaison officer managed the public relations of the organization, mainly interacting with the tourism industry, both on the ministry and private levels. Ms. Seneviratne herself used the contacts built up from her years as a journalist to put herself in the public eye and to use personal contacts throughout Sri Lankan society. Within a few years of its founding, P.E.A.C.E. grew to cover issues such as child prostitution, sexual abuse, and child labor, and has generally sought to tackle these problems by identifying and helping “children at risk”.
The organization gradually built up a network of allies, within the Sri Lankan government and tourism ministry, within the tourism industry, within law enforcement, and within the religious establishment. They raised awareness of the problem through the press as well as through a quarterly newsletter, and attended some of the first international conferences on the topic of the sexual exploitation of children in tourism.
On the one hand, P.E.A.C.E. used media coverage and allies both in- and outside the government to create pressure for an official response. At the same time, the government recognized that dealing with the problem pro-actively would prevent the sexual exploitation of children from becoming too closely associated with Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. By publicly acknowledging and fighting the problem of sexual exploitation of children in Sri Lanka, the government accepted that there would be media information of the problem regardless. Ensuring that this information was accurate, and not sensationalized, was the best way to protect the interests of the tourism industry.
Within a few years of P.E.A.C.E.’s founding, the government enacted the following:
- 1995 - the amendment of Penal Code of Sri Lanka to specifically address child sexual exploitation and incest
- 1998 - amendments to the Criminal Code, including the creation of a centralized bureau for women's and children's rights; in addition, child abuse desks are now found in every police division
- 1999 - ratification of the National Child Protection Authority, a blanket organization for government agencies, international bodies, NGOs, and child welfare experts
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