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At the two-day consultation on Protecting Children in Tourism: Role of the Goa Children’s Act the inaugural address was delivered by His Excellency, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao. Rina Ray, Secretary, Department of Art, Culture, Tourism & Education, Govt. of NCT of Delhi delivered the keynote address and Roma Singh, Regional Director, Ministry of Tourism spoke on a ‘Code of Conduct for Safe and Honourable Tourism’.
Sanjiv Gadkar, Director, Department of Women and Child Development and Pamela Mascarenhas, Dy. Director of Tourism also spoke at the consultation which was attended by more than 70 people representing various sectors including the Government, the tourism Industry, CSOs, media, academic Institutions, law enforcement and community members.
Feedback and Way Forward
Even after 8 years of the inception of this Unique Act, the implementation is still a QUESTION. The Act has been amended, or rather watered down, just two years after its promulgation. It needs perhaps to be revised in face of the ever new threats posed to the endangered child.
The panel discussions following each session resulted in the following observations and recommendations:
The general consensus was that enforcement of the Act has been very weak – Political will and budgetary commitments are essential for implementation of the Act.
Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has launched the Code of Conduct on Safe and Honourable Tourism aimed at registered service providers and tour operators. Though it is not a legally binding code of conduct, the registered service providers and tour operators are supposed to adopt it at the time of application/ renewal of licenses/ classifications.
The provision under GCA states that permission needs to be sought from the Director, DWCD to keep an unrelated child. It was felt that this provision could be misused. The District Inspection Team that is required to do the inquiries and monitoring of such cases needs to be constituted with persons who can make the time to carry out these responsibilities effectively.
The Act provides for the setting up of Steering Committees to develop Plans of Actions including a Plan to achieve universal elementary education and eradicate child illiteracy within a period of seven years; to eradicate child labour in a phased manner, ensuring that rehabilitation mechanisms are in place to accommodate children rescued from child labour; to ensure that commercially sexually exploited children are rescued and rehabilitated; and to facilitate early detection in the case of differently abled children and to promote inclusive education, vocational training and community-based programmes. However the Steering Committees have not been formed and the Action Plans have remained on paper. It was felt that steps needed to be taken towards realising these Plans.
Lack of awareness about the Act and the need to create awareness of the provisions of the Goa Children’s Act was repeatedly emphasised.
The participants urged the government to set up Victim Assistance Units at the earliest to minimise the trauma that child victims face.
Need for coordination and cooperation within the government departments to address child related issues
Children face pressure from the abusers and often turn hostile at the time of the trial. This highlights the need to establish Witness Protection Units.
It was felt that the role of mechanisms created under different legislations should be clearly defined to prevent any overlap and they should function in coordination with each other. (Example: the ITPA, JJB, CWC and the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights)
It was observed that the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has been set up under the Central Act. However it should be responsible for the implementation of the Goa Children’s Act.
Need to revisit each section separately and see what has been achieved and what more needs to be done for better implementation.
The Central Legislation “Draft Bill on Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act” not to overwrite the provisions of Goa children’s Act.
Commitment for Mr. D C Sahoo, Tourism Secretary, Department of Tourism, Goa
The consultation ended with a Commitment for Mr. D C Sahoo, Tourism Secretary, Department of Tourism, Goa to do the following:
To display bill boards and hoardings around Goa stating “Zero Tolerance for Exploitation of children in tourism in Goa”
To work towards declaring the State of Goa “Zero tolerance for exploitation of children in tourism in Goa”
To make following the Goa Children’s Act and other relevant laws a condition for the granting of and renewing of licences
To encourage initiate inter-department collaboration towards working together on the issues of protection of children in tourism.