Sex tourists prey on Sri Lanka's children: Beach resorts are hunting-grounds for European child abusers and pornographic video makers. Tim McGirk reports from Colombo

SOME German men were in a hotel room with three Sri Lankan village boys, aged seven, 11 and 14, having sex and filming it. They would sell the pornographic video back in Europe. The men had rented the room for a month. Downstairs, pacing around helplessly, was Maureen Seneviratne, a child rights' advocate.

First she pleaded with the manager of the guest-house, a clean and proper-looking establishment shaded in the coconut groves behind Negombo beach. It was known through paedophile circles in Britain, Sweden and Germany, and while other hotels in this popular resort suffered many vacancies, this guest-house was always full. 'I'm not God to know what goes on inside my rooms,' the manager replied with a shrug. 'But I tell you, I won't bring my own children here - not around these foreigners.'

This was the last day of the Germans' filming. They were turning the three boys loose after having subjected them to a month of degradation and sexual abuse. In Europe, such behaviour would have brought them stiff prison sentences if caught. But in Sri Lanka, foreigners are never jailed for sex offences against children. The pay-off for each boy was a carrier bag with a box of cereal, milk powder, chocolates, a T-shirt and dollars 25. The Germans gave one boy a bicycle. 'He kept riding the bicycle round and round the garden, but the look in the boy's eyes was like something out of the Omen - intense and angry. Demonic,' Ms Seneviratne said. 'He was proud to own the bicycle but so, so ashamed at how he got it.'

An ebullient woman, with grandchildren, Ms Seneviratne confronted the German video cameraman as he came out of the room. 'How can you do this?' she sputtered angrily. The German rubbed his fingers together. 'Money, money, money,' he replied. One United States study estimated that more than 250 million copies of videos on child pornography are circulating world-wide, and most were filmed in the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka. One raid, on a home in a Stockholm suburb in July 1992, yielded stacks of letters between paedophiles sharing descriptions of children's bodies and sex organs. Found in the haul were 300 hours of child pornography videos, mostly filmed in Sri Lanka with titles such as Boy Love in Negombo and Hikkaduwa - the Child Sex Paradise.

Sri Lanka is becoming notorious as a destination for paedophiles. The scale of child prostitution is probably larger in the Philippines and in Thailand, but in Sri Lanka the problem is growing fastest. And, in Sri Lanka, nearly all the victims are boys, aged between six and 14. Guesses of how many children have sex with tourists vary wildly between the government figure of 1,000 and some social activists' claim of 30,000. It appears that Western sex tourists visiting Asia are demanding child prostitutes in the mistaken belief that they are more likely to be free of Aids.

Sri Lankan boys are easy prey. Studies show that a paedophile is likely to be a middle-aged male professional, such as a doctor, a banker, a teacher or even a clergyman. Sometimes he is married, and often he suffered abuse as a child himself. He seduces with little gifts and by playing games. The number of children he seduces often runs into the hundreds. The excuse he gives is that the children enjoy it. Sri Lankan children are susceptible because they are naturally friendly and desperately poor.

A boy can earn as much fellating a tourist - 200 rupees (pounds 2.25) - as carrying bricks for 12 hours. Relations between boys and girls are discouraged until marriage, and until then many Sri Lankans take a discreet and casual attitude towards homosexuality. Some boys are lured into organised gangs who often run secluded villas co-financed by foreign paedophiles, while others have casual trysts on the beach with foreigners. Motor-rickshaw drivers outside the hotels frequently act as pimps.

At Mt Lavinia, a beach resort near Colombo, a middle-aged European was observed walking in the surf. He approached a young boy, whirled slowly on the ball of his foot. Then, with his toe, he wrote a number in the sand. The boy agreed and the two walked off holding hands. When a social worker mentioned seeing this awkward ballet movement, she was told by a colleague from Thailand that it was a code used by paedophiles for picking up boys.

Even more shocking is that some Sri Lankan parents condone it and rent out rooms in their shacks where their children satisfy the paedophile. 'One father told me: 'what did it matter, my son won't get pregnant',' recalled Ms Seneviratne. The foreigner's cash is offset by the child contracting such diseases as Aids and lasting sexual trauma. No Aids study has yet been made on the 'beach boys'.

Following the lead of Thailand and the Philippines, Sri Lanka is swiftly moving to pass tough laws to make abusing children punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Sweden, Norway and Germany are considering legislation that would make paedophilia a crime even if committed by one of their nationals in a faraway country.

So far, though, no foreigner has been jailed for child abuse in Sri Lanka and only a few have been discreetly deported. Yet the trade continues. A cyclist in the southern resort of Hikkaduwa was stopped by a woman demanding 'bon-bons for babies'. Having gained his attention, the woman offered the sexual favours of the small boy accompanying her.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all