Accessibility links

Breaking News

Australia Targets Overseas Child Sex Tourists

Australian Paul Francis Callahan, left, wanted in Australia and detained in Bali after being accused of child sex abuse, covers his face prior to his trial at a court in Denpasar (File Photo)

Australia is strengthening laws aimed at protecting children overseas from sex tourists. The measures include prison terms of up to 25 years for Australians found guilty of sex crimes against children in foreign countries and up to 10 years for planning to commit such crimes.

The Australian government has toughened its child abuse laws to combat what officials have described as the increasingly "depraved and corrupt" activities of child sex tourists.

Advertisements in national newspapers warn that the governments will prosecute sex offenses committed outside Australia. Perpetrators can also be charged for planning to commit child sex offenses in other countries. Those found guilty face long jail sentences of up to 25 years, while stricter penalties for those dealing in obscene material on the internet have also been introduced.

Hetty Johnston from the Queensland-based child protection charity, Bravehearts, says sex tourists should have no place to hide.

"It is an option - and a very attractive option - for child sex offenders to actually travel overseas to places where children are not so protected. So, anything at all that we can do to stop that we are all for. We just do not believe persons convicted of child sex offenses should be allowed to leave the country without reason."

Human rights groups have alleged that some Australians travel outside the country to abuse children. They blame organized criminal gangs in Asia, the Pacific, South America and Eastern Europe for facilitating sex tourism.

Johnston says the child sex trade is a multi-billion dollar global industry that is equivalent to the international drugs industry. She admits that dismantling such a sophisticated operation will not be easy.

The Australian government has promised to fight the sexual exploitation of children wherever it occurs.

Over the weekend, a 72-year-old man was extradited from Portugal and will face a court in Sydney on child sex charges that allegedly date back more than a decade.

The suspect is accused of molesting a nine-year girl.