Action by Singaporeans and Singapore Residents to help stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children overseas

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22 September 2005

We, the undersigned, support greater effort and action to stop the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. In particular, we seek to protect the most vulnerable those below the age of 18 years who are victimized by adult demand for sexual services of such children and young persons. UNICEF estimates that there are more than 1 million child prostitutes in Asia.

While there should be continued attention on alleviating poverty and improving public education to address the supply side, we believe more can be done to address the demand side. We recognise the damage this demand inflicts on young lives in terms of physical and psychological abuse; on their communities as they are unable to break out of the cycle of poverty and abuse; and on our own society for morally bankrupting us if we stand by and do nothing.

We believe it is the collective responsibility of members of the community, businesses and government agencies to stop this demand that transcends national boundaries.

1. From the community, we seek to end the culture of silence. Our community needs to acknowledge the ugly fact that there are Singaporean men who use children and young persons for sex, whether as preferential or opportunistic abusers. They take advantage of their victims poverty, marginalisation and lack of protection and justify their actions as helping someone make a living or as being culturally acceptable or tolerated in the host country In particular, border regions like Batam, have a thriving sex industry fuelled by demand from more affluent neighbours like Singapore. Part of this demand is met by children and young persons trafficked into the trade. We seek community action in the form of public education of these facts, vigilance against offenders and public support for concerted action by businesses, non-government organisations (NGOs) and our government. We urge each individual to exercise his or her influence in their family, place of work and community.

2. From businesses, especially those in the tourism and entertainment sectors with regional reach, we ask that they recognise the problem of child sex tourism and trafficking, and the important role they can play in prevention. We call for businesses to maintain ethical standards of conduct and not turn a blind eye to the fact that their services and facilities may be used in the commercial sexual exploitation of children and young persons. We urge businesses to implement staff training to aid recognition and reporting of incidents, mechanisms for reporting and customer education to stop demand.

3. From government, we ask for urgent action to put in place all necessary and viable legal and policy measures to prevent and deter the commercial sexual exploitation of children and young persons, both in Singapore and overseas by members of our own community. These may include making it a criminal offence to engage in sexual activity with anyone below 18 years of age while overseas. We seek more effective cooperation among our government agencies and among government agencies across national boundaries, as well as government cooperation with businesses and NGOs to enforce measures aimed at prevention and at bringing offenders to justice.

This petition is made out of our belief that as members of a civilised society we have a responsibility to treat every person, regardless of age, social or economic status, ethnicity, nationality or religion, with respect, dignity and common humanity, and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable against those who seek to exploit and degrade them for personal gratification. We demand that positive action be taken immediately by Singaporeans and Singapore residents to help stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children overseas.