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)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Implementation Engineer

£150 - £200 per day: Orgtel: Implementation Engineer Hampshire / London (Gre...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Pharmacuetical

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Real Staffing, one of the UK'...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform