In the first six months of 2013, 150 registered offenders took trips elsewhere, an increase from 60 in the prior six months, the Australian Federal Police reported. Last year, 800 registered sex offenders took trips outside Australia, according to the country, and more than 250 of them left without permission.
When the latest sex offender travel figures were released in November, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia called the travelers “a disgrace to Australia” and vowed to work with legislators to enact stricter laws to fight sex tourism.
The legislation now needs to be passed by Parliament before it can become law. About 90 percent of the bills introduced in the Australian Parliament become law.
Child sex tourism, a multibillion-dollar business worldwide, exists almost everywhere but is widespread in some countries near Australia. Countries like Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, which have struggled to protect children from sex tourism, can be reached from Australia within an 8- to 15-hour plane ride.
In recent years, the Australian government has come under increasing pressure by watchdog groups and activists to crack down on its citizens molesting children in other countries. In 2008, the Australian ambassador to the Philippines worked with that country to encourage tourists to report suspicious behavior between adults and children there.
In 2010, the Australian government went so far as to buy advertisements in newspapers to remind its citizens that they can be prosecuted for molesting children in other countries. The campaign coincided with tougher laws enacted in Australia that carry up to a 25-year prison sentence for anyone who engages in sexual activity with children overseas.
Prison sentences for sexually assaulting children in Australia vary by state and by the age of the victim, but they can carry a maximum…