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Ministry rejects report on sex tourism in Kerala

The study titled 'Trafficking in Women and Children in India' was conducted by the Institute of Social Sciences and was funded by a UN agency.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 21:20 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Kerala's tourism ministry has said that the study report about thriving sex tourism in the state lacks credibility and is aimed at finishing the flourishing houseboat industry, especially in Alappuzha and Kochi.

The study titled 'Trafficking in Women and Children in India', which stated that sex tourism involving children was rampant in the state, was conducted by New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences and was funded by a United Nations agency.

The report points out that many foreign tourists staying in houseboats indulge in sex with children, and there are no raids despite the authorities knowing this fact.

Rejecting the study, state Tourism Minister KC Venugopal said, "Everyone knows that Kerala is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in South Asia with houseboats as its major selling point."

"A report like this could blemish the state's chances to grow as a tourist spot. So far we have not received any complaints from any quarters. And do you think such a thing can happen in literate Kerala where moral policing is very high? There is something fishy about the report. May be they have other interests," he added.

Alappuzha, popularly known as the Venice of the East, shot into prominence with the arrival of houseboats, earlier known as rice boats. Today, it has more than 300 houseboats.

Alex George, president of the Kerala State Houseboat Owners Association, said, "This is a malicious report aiming to finish the houseboat industry as it is doing roaring business. We are going to have an emergency meeting of the association and discuss initiating legal steps."

"The earlier issue was that houseboats used to create environmental problems. Seeing that the earlier issue did not click, now there is this serious allegation about sex tourism thriving in houseboats. We won't take it lying low because this is our bread and butter and a lot of investment has gone into this industry," he added.

Close to Rs 100 million have been invested in the houseboat industry since it came into existence in late 1990s.

Tomy Pulikattil, who owns a fleet of houseboats, said, "We are prepared to do anything to come clean on this report.

"Who says raids are not conducted? The police often do so. We welcome police outposts at the entry and exit points where tourists board the houseboats.

"We do not even serve liquor on the houseboats. The report is baseless and lacks credibility."

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 16:09 IST