Last year over a million Australians traveled to Bali for a holiday. What many of them don't know is that behind the beautiful beaches, the rich cultural experiences, and the friendly Balinese hospitality is a set of social justice issues, illegal child labor and commercial sexual exploitation (sex trafficking). Australian believers who will be spending time in Bali this summer have a unique opportunity to use their tourism dollars for the benefit of the Balinese children and, with a few extra minutes of self-education, can ensure their holiday is an ethical one.
Like many other tourist destinations, the Balinese economy rests on the dollars of its tourists. Nearly every industry in Bali supports tourism - fishermen catch the fish that end up on tourist plates, construction workers build the villas and hotels that tourists stay in, and business owners market for their share of tourist cash. Sadly, there are those who profit from nefarious tourist purchases as well.
The most obvious is the sale of children for sex. By some measurements, Indonesia has passed Thailand and Cambodia as a leading destination location for child sex tourism, and according to the United States Department Trafficking in Persons Report for 2017 Bali remains one of the most concerning hotspots. While the vast majority of tourists have no interest in abusing children abroad, many do not realize that some of their practices may be contributing to the abuse of children in Bali as well. In fact, some tourists in their efforts to show compassion to Balinese children, particularly children who are "working" or begging, unwittingly hurt them.
DarkBali is a coalition of mostly faith-based anti-human trafficking organisations on Bali working in many sectors to address the problem of child exploitation and commercial child sexual abuse. The organisation believes that tourists have significant power for good and hopes to equip conscientious tourists. Here are a few ways that your tourist dollars can help rather than hurt if you are headed to Bali this summer:
Never give money to children who are begging. Most of these children belong to criminal syndicates that exploit them for labor and sex, sometimes trafficking them from other islands. Tourist money goes to the bosses, not the kids. If you feel compelled to give something, a hand stamp/sticker or a newly opened package of food that can't be resold is best.
Do not buy from child vendors. Whether selling fruit or trinkets, remember that when you purchase from a child laborer, you are encouraging their caregivers to keep them out of school.
Do not tip child performers. In many tourist locations groups of young kids do impromptu performances in the open restaurants for tips during dinner hours. Exactly like the child beggars, these kids are being forced to work by criminal syndicates.
Stay at a hotel that has a zero-tolerance policy on child abuse and trafficking. You can find a list of hotels and villas committed to the protection of Bali's children here.
If you observe something strange, report it to our coalition partner organisation.
Spend a few of your tourist minutes (or hours!) in prayer for the children of Bali. Our prayer guide is loaded with information about how you can best pray for our kids, community leaders, and even the perpetrators.
As a coalition, we believe in the power of unity, and we believe that it truly does take the global village to take on the evil of child sexual abuse and trafficking. We invite you to be a part of this response.
Find more information about commercial child sexual abuse and exploitation, DarkBali's coalition members, or for more ideas for having an ethical holiday at www.darkbali.org.
Dalaina May lives with her husband, Dan, and four young sons in Bali, Indonesia. In response to the request of the local anti-trafficking community, she started DarkBali, whose vision is to see sex slavery abolished and the broken lives of sex slaves restored through creating awareness, empowering advocacy, and building partnerships for the prevention, rescue, and restoration of trafficked children in Bali. When she isn’t working with local abolitionists, stepping on Legos, or breaking up lightsaber fights (in other words, after bedtime), she is usually geeking out on theology or advocating for Christian involvement in social justice issues. Find out more about her work at darkbali.org or her theological journey at her blog, dalainamay.com