River City News Network Reports: Canadian Government Takes the Lead on Cambodian Sex Trade Prosecutions

TORONTO, Aug. 11, 2015 /CNW/ -- The following release is from the River City News Network, reporting on the topic of the Cambodian sex trade and Canadian citizens involvement:   

Although only eight Canadians have been convicted of violating Canada's sex tourism laws, thousands of men from Toronto all the way to Saskatoon travel to Cambodia every year for reasons we may never know.

Simply put, Canadian businessmen use Cambodia as a sexual playground – arranging for taboo sexual escapades just as they would order a pizza. A new documentary uncovers how the practice has become so widespread and these would be predators operate with impunity so unabashed by their own deeds that it is not uncommon for predators to return home with souvenir photos or videos of their experiences, which in the past have rarely lead to prosecution. But that has changed.

Canada has taken the lead with tough new ''sex tourism'' laws that allows the country to prosecute residents accused of committing sex offenses in a foreign country. And, Canada recently upped the ante for casual travel offenders by making it possible to prosecute individuals for prior illegal activity.

For a long time Donald Bakker of Penticton, B.C. was the only Canadian convicted of sex crimes while visiting Cambodia. The 2005 case against him was built on video footage Bakker had taken of his victims who were all under the age of 14.

Since that time, only eight other cases have been prosecuted. Yet, Canada has broken new ground by being the first country to go after prior offenders – a bold move that puts travelers from all of Canada's major provinces under the microscope peering in to their previous travels to Cambodia and other locations such as Bangkok.

"Cambodia is not a destination in the traditional sense and its primary export is Illegal sex and that includes minors unfortunately," said actress Mira Sorvino whose award winning documentary on CNN "Every day in Cambodia" exposed the illegal sex trade.

Sorvino uncovered how, in places like Svay Pak where there are no goods to export, certifiable virgins are sold for cash – often by their own mothers.  

"They are trading their survival for deviant sexual acts," said Michael Bourke, a psychologist with the US Marshal's Office in a 2013 interview with The Star (Toronto).   

Businessmen from profitable nations like Canada take advantage of minors from poorer countries by providing an ever abundant cash flow for the trade.  They travel to foreign shores, exploit these individuals for a price, and return home often without criminal consequences.

Over the past four years, the number of tourists visiting Cambodia has doubled.  According to Development and Cooperation, in 2014 more than 4 million foreigners visited Cambodia. Less than a decade ago, the Cambodian government shut down underage brothels sending all the traffic to the black market, which is thriving according to investigators and missionaries who are working to rescue and recover victims.

The despicable truth is that hundreds of thousands of underage boys and girls are sold into sexual slavery every year. The UN estimates there are 700,000 trafficking victims around the world, including as many as 800 a year trafficked into Canada. 

The sex trade is known as a low-risk, high-yield organized crime born of a sick mix of poverty and depravity. Evil, enterprising predators appeal to the perversions of sex addicts by selling the act of sex with a minor or virgin. The hoary crime has been made easier with the proliferation of webcam sites the Internet and the simplicity of virtual international travel, which has enabled these alleged criminal sexual predators to connect and commit unthinkable acts by appointment - and for the most part to escape prosecution. More than sixty percent of today's victims worldwide were sold over the Internet.

In one story, a Canadian businessman just disappeared and traveled to Cambodia for reasons unknown. "Well he didn't go for the food," said Mika Sanchez who spoke with this reporter in a shaky voice and refused to go on the record.

The one factor victims have in common is poverty. Poor underage victims easily become entangled in the corrupt adult game of sex trafficking.  Some are runaways.  Others have been sold by their impoverished families (In Cambodia, nearly 50 percent of such arrangements are made by the victim's mother).  Some are falsely led to believe they have been hired for domestic work – only to discover the truth when it was too late.  A few of the victims are kidnapped. Many more are enticed or otherwise compelled with drugs, food or money.

The FBI also has a profile for these traveling sex offenders. Special Agent Adrienne Ison says they tend to be older men with a stable lifestyle. They financially have the resources to travel and feel comfortable navigating in a foreign country.   

"What makes these offenders so successful is their ability to interact with others," Ison said.

Since 1997, 136 Canadian men have sought consular help overseas after having been arrested or imprisoned for child sex offenses. Studies on the effectiveness of the Criminal Code reveal how "all too often Canada's commitment to hold its citizens accountable for child sex crimes abroad rings hollow."

Despite Canadian legislation enabling the prosecution of past offenders, the complex nature of sex trafficking makes it a challenge for law enforcement entities. Government officials acknowledge there are serious problems with monitoring the travel of sex offenders – and of prosecuting cases which require intensive on the ground investigations in foreign countries. In 2013, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said it's a significant issue that needs to be addressed. 

In an April interview with CNN Sorvino said education is the key to prevention.

"Primary and especially secondary education is extremely important in preventing trafficking," Sorvino told CNN in April. "It allows children to develop critical thinking skills to be able to defend themselves from traffickers and to have the skills that will enable them to have gainful employment to be able to support their families in other ways than being sexually exploited."

Yet, she insists the demand side of the market equation must also be addressed.

"If people weren't trying to buy child sex it wouldn't be being sold," Sorvino said.

Despite rising awareness, the mostly male population of buyers is creating a growing demand for unlawful sex.  And, activists agree that as long as these violators have any ability to cross borders or boundaries to evade prosecution, there will be no end to the sales of minors for sex. 

For more information, contact publisher Callie Lyons at the River City News Network www.rivercitynewsnetwork.com, 740-236-8635.



SOURCE River City News Network

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