Convicted pedophiles in Australia are to be banned from traveling out of the country in a bid to stop child-sex tourism. Some 20,000 child-sex offenders will have their passports canceled under new laws.
Australia plans to introduce what its justice minister has termed "the strongest crackdown on child-sex tourism ever" by banning convicted pedophiles from traveling overseas, the government announced on Tuesday.
The laws, to be introduced soon in parliament, aim to protect vulnerable children particularly in nearby Southeast Asian and Pacific island countries, where several Australian child-sex offenders have been known to travel to continue their pedophile activities.
"The new laws will prohibit registered child-sex offenders from leaving Australia or holding Australian passports," said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, adding that she would cancel the passports of some 20,000 pedophiles on the national child-sex offender register.
She noted that almost 800 such offenders had traveled overseas from Australia last year, with many of them failing to notify police of their travel intentions despite having high risks of reoffending. About half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said.
"There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child-sex tourism," Bishop said.
'Leading the world'
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the new laws were unprecedented in the world.
"No country has ever taken such decisive and strong action to stop its citizens from going overseas, often to vulnerable countries, to abuse kids. So this is absolutely a world first," he said.
Senator Derryn Hinch, a longtime campaigner for the measures who was involved in drafting the legislation, said pedophiles traveling for legitimate business and family reasons, and those living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire, could be provided with temporary passports.
But he defended the move against critics who claim the new laws infringe on civil rights, saying that "when you rape a child, you lose some of your civil rights, from my point of view."
As a radio broadcaster, Hinch was twice jailed for naming pedophiles in contravention of court orders. He himself suffered molestation as a child.
Australia has already introduced other legislation in a bid to stem child-sex tourism, punishing its citizens or residents who molest children overseas with up to 25 years in prison.
tj/rg (AP, AFP)