Government denies allegation of sex tourism in Gambia


By Yankuba Jallow & Makutu Manneh

The Gambia Government on Monday, 17th February 2020 said England based Sun Newspaper’s article that The Gambia is a place where sex beast buy children and toddlers to rape was misleading and untrue.

The Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare held a joint press conference wherein the entire information in the news article was refuted.

“The Government through the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare together with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has taken a firm stand against child sex tourism in The Gambia and measures are in place to protect children most especially in the tourism sector,” Fatou Kinteh sanyang the Minister of women, children and social welfare said.

According to her, in the article, the author said among others that “Gambian children are being sold to British paedophiles for little as £2-a-time by their desperate parents. The article also alleged that “sex tourism is already huge in The Gambia – some bars are like brothels and I do no worry that more children will get lured into prostitution to feed their families.”

Minister Kinteh-Sanyang said the article was malicious and based on misinformation and mischaracterisation of facts.

She said the Government of The Gambia as a State party to various international treaties, most notably the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, has invested heavily in the promotion and protection of the rights of children in The Gambia.

She said the Children’s Act 2005 protects all the children in The Gambia and places a duty on everyone to report to either the Police or Department of Social Welfare any case of child abuse or the violations of the right of any child that he or she is aware of. She added that the Act expressly prohibits sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child in any form or to keep a brothel or allow a child to be in brothels. In addition, she said the Tourism Offences Act strictly prohibits unlawful sexual advances to a child, procurement of a child for sex, child pornography and indecent acts by tourists among other offences.

“The Government of the Republic of The Gambia hereby informs the general public that there is zero tolerance for child abuse or child exploitation and any person found wanting will face the full force of the law,” she said.

Honourable Hamat N.K. Bah, the Minister of Tourism and Culture said the article was written with malicious intent by the author to lower the image of the country.

“We want responsible journalism and not people who are bent on destroying the image of the country. Let us cherish our democracy because the Gambia belongs to all of us,” he said.

He added: “we will do what is right to protect the children.” He said the pictures in the story were not taken in The Gambia.

“For someone to say or suggest there is sex tourism in the country is the most misleading statement to say. There is no sex tourism in the country. We have nothing like sex tourism. We cannot allow sex tourism in the country because it is against our laws, our cultures and tradition. The Government will never accept sex tourism to be practice in the Gambia,” Bah said.

Ebrima Sillah, the Minister of Information said when the article was published on the Sun Newspaper, different stakeholders in the tourism sector as well as those engage in the protection of children and women summoned a meeting and began investigating the allegations in the news article. He said they found out that the story wasn’t true and they issued a press release debunking the information contained in that article.

Sillah said the allegation that parents sell their children for as low as £2 to paedophiles is very misleading and erroneous.

“We have made our investigation and we have contacted the people who are (were) quoted in the story and some of them said they were misquoted,” he said.

He said: “The story was very erroneous. It was not only erroneous but it was done in bad faith. No Government official was contacted and this shows it was done in bad faith.”